The winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee all have serious p-o-t-e-n-t-i-a-l, but there are a couple who went on to do truly great things with their lives.
In honor of the brave girls and boys who entered this year’s Bee—which concluded in a tie between Sriram Hathway and Ansun Sujoe after not missing a word for five rounds—we took a look at some of the coolest things that former spelling champs have gone on to do.
Amanda Goad, who won the 1992 competition with the word “Lyceum,” went to to Harvard Law School and joined the ACLU. She’s a staff attorney for the organization’s LGBT and AIDS Project.
Susan Yoachum won the Bee in 1969, and went on to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She was the political editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rageshree Ramachandran took home the trophy for the word “elegiacal” in 1988. She started Stanford at age 16 and went on to earn a Ph.D. and M.D. She’s now a surgical pathologist and Director of Medical Education at the University of California San Francisco.
Jacques Bailly, the 1980 champ, is an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Vermont.
Pratyush Buddiga, the champion from 2002, went be a serious professional poker player.
Paige Pipkin Kimble won the contest in 1981. (Her word was “sarcophagus.”) She’s now the Executive Director of the Spelling Bee.
Rebecca Sealfon brought home the prize in 1997. She went on to found Research Match, a nonprofit organization that connects volunteers and researchers for studies.
Ashley White competed in, but didn’t win, the 1999 Bee at age 13. But she did win viewers’ hearts when she starred in “Spellbound,” the documentary about the competition. When the movie came out, in 2002, Smith was pregnant and living in a homeless shelter. After press attention from the movie, she decided to find a way to go to college. Smith managed to complete a degree from Howard University while still living in a shelter, and then went on to earn a graduate degree in social work. She’s now a social worker and motivational speaker for troubled kids. (For a really moving account of how Smith did it, read Petula Dvorak’s profile of her in The Washington Post)
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