El Paso Independent School District student, Sheneli De Silva, wins the 2022 National Spanish Spelling Bee which was hosted in El Paso by Education Service Center Region 19 at the Starlight Event Center on July 29-30, 2022.
On Saturday, July 30, over 20 competitors, from various states such as Wyoming, California, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas, started the national competition at approximately 9:30AM. After several rounds and hours, the competition was narrowed down to the final two contestants in which ultimately at approximately 1PM, De Silva won the competition by correctly spelling the word ‘herético’ (which means ‘heretical’ in English).
“I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with the prize money. Perhaps save it for college,” said De Silva after winning the $500 first place grand prize check and national title. “It was a lot of hard work and I practiced quite a bit with the help from my family,” De Silva said. She will be an 8th grader for the 2022-2023 school year at the Young Women’s STEAM Research Preparatory, EPISD, and hopes to one day attend a prestigious school such as Harvard University to become a doctor. “This was a great experience! I got to meet and make friends with many of the kids…I will definitely be back next year to defend my title,” De Silva said.
2022 NSSB Top Three Winners were:
1st place ($500): Sheneli De Silva, El Paso, TX
2nd place ($350): Natalia Acosta from Las Cruces, New Mexico
3rd place ($150): America Agis from San Antonio Texas (whose younger sister Frida Agis also competed in the NSSB)
“We consider all of the contestants to be winners since they’ve made it to this national level,” said David Briseño, NSSB Founder and Coordinator. All of the contestants were recognized with medals & custom t-shirts during a reception dinner after the competition. “We are very proud of the diversity of the contestants and the high level of academic rigor these young students excel in,” said Briseño who initiated the program 11 years ago. Several students speak more than two languages, including the winner De Silva who speaks Sinhala, English and Spanish. “Our goal is to give students an unforgettable positive experience that will help them not only academically but also with their confidence, public speaking skills and the ability to thrive under pressure,” Briseño said.
During the reception, parents and students were given an opportunity to share their experiences. Many stood up and shared that they appreciated that although their son or daughter may have not won, they were glad they participated because they were still made to feel like they were all winners.