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UMD Offers Spelling Bee Winner Full Scholarship

By Maryland Today Staff

The University of Maryland has offered a full scholarship to the 14-year-old winner of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

President Darryll J. Pines reached out to her today via social media: “Congratulations Zalia Avant-garde, winner of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee! #UMD is pleased to offer you a full, four-year scholarship. We hope you’ll bring your ‘murraya’ win to Maryland!”

Avant-garde, an eighth grader from Harvey, Louisiana, spelled her way to victory in the July 8 contest in Orlando with the word “murraya,” a genus of flowering plants in the citrus family. In her second time at the bee, she became the first African American contestant to win, and took home a $50,000 prize.

Her talents aren’t limited to spelling: Avant-garde holds three Guinness world records for basketball dribbling, juggling and bouncing. She told NBC Sports that she hopes to play, then coach in the WNBA after college.

UMD will have competition for her: Several other universities in her home state also hope to lure Avant-garde with full scholarships. But different schools and colleges at Maryland are piping in with their best pitch: The A. James Clark School of Engineering posted on Facebook, “We're confident The Department of Aerospace Engineering at UMCP could help Zaila pursue her goal of becoming a NASA scientist.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.