She helped put the Central Valley on the map for its education and intellect when she won the national spelling bee two years ago.
Ananya Vinay of Fresno County is now 14-years-old, and she’s still winning awards and helping other kids tap into their potential.
The moment that vaulted then 12-year-old Vinay to the national spotlight, winning the top spot out of 290 competitors at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“It was really surreal because I watched all the winners before and I never imagined that I would be one of them,” Vinay remembered.
There was a huge welcome home at her school – Fugman Elementary in Fresno. She came home to chants of, “Ananya, Ananya, Ananya.”
It wasn’t always like this. On her journey to the national competition, she had losses, and disappointments. “When I lost, I always felt a little discouraged. but I always thought there’d be one more spelling bee and I could try to do better,” Vinay explained.
And how to handle pressure: “Because you never know, because spelling bee’s a lot of luck, like you could panic, you could forget the word at the moment. So trying to work on that composure really helped me do better.”
She’s using that knowledge to help others who want to compete.
“I actually co-founded my own online coaching company for online coaching called Spell Genius. And I’ve been thinking of giving any of the income I generate from that to help to help kids in Fresno,” she explains.
One of her students is her younger brother Achuth, who just won the Fresno County Spelling Bee.
Her advice? “I think they should study at least one hour a day and make sure you’re fully focused.”
The office of her family’s home is filled with her trophies, ribbons, and plaques. And now Achuth’s. She recently added a first place ribbon from the Fresno County Science Fair.
She says girls shouldn’t be intimidated by science.
“Science is hard for everyone, because there are a lot of things that you don’t know, so its just hard to accept that you don’t know things. That’s why people don’t like science I guess,” Vinay says.
Her advice to girls her age, go ahead and take risks. Don’t worry about being perfect – from the start.
“So one thing I tell girls is just try and take those baby steps because even if it doesn’t succeed immediately if you learn from those mistakes it will succeed eventually in some way, even if the reward isn’t tangible you’ll at least learn something,” Vinay says.
Ananya is big proponent of reading – she says that’s what got her into spelling. With the proceeds from her online coaching, she wants to purchase e-readers for children in west Fresno, giving them access to books and hopefully generate a love of reading, like her own.