A 6-Year-Old Texan Took On The Big Kids As Youngest Competitor In National Spelling Bee
Five stories that have North Texas talking: Seventeen spellers, including first grader Akash Vukoti, represented the state; golfer Jordan Spieth and Bill Murray paired up for a round; no one’s sure how an alligator got feet from a Dallas middle school; and more.
Around the time many kids learn to speak, Akash Vukoti of San Angelo started to spell. His first word was “s-p-o-o-n” around 18 months, he told Vox. Now, at age 6, his favorite word is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” which is a type of lung disease, in case you need to use it in a sentence.
What Vukoti lacks in years, he makes up for in résumé items. He participated in his first spelling bee at 2.5 years and was second runner-up in a regional spelling bee at 5. He can fluently read and write in English, Telugu and Hindi. And earlier this year, he made his television debut on NBC’s “Little Big Shots." He still finds time to do what he loves, though — jump on the trampoline and play with his big sister.
Vukoti is speller No. 238 out of 285 participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week. Spellers ranged from age 6-14. The first grader competed in the preliminary rounds on Wednesday, losing on the word "bacteriolytic." Sixteen other Texans have also spelled their hearts out, includingSmrithi Upadhyayula of Coppell and Shourav Dasari of Houston, who will compete in the the finals today. More about the bee. [Vox, Scripps National Spelling Bee]
“I say the word, spell the word, say the word — then I’m done.”
- Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over transgender bathroom policies. Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to stop a directive instructing school districts to let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with their chosen identity. The directive stated the right to choose a bathroom is protected under Title IX, according to The Texas Tribune. In March, North Carolina passed House Bill 2, “which prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificate,” and spurred the national debate. Read more. [The Texas Tribune, Vox]
- Exxon Mobil is under fire to explain how it will address climate change. At the annual meeting Wednesday, shareholders of the Irving-based oil company had 14 resolutions to consider, eight of which pertained to global warming or environmental issues, Scientific American reported. “They prod the oil giant to acknowledge that insurgent energy sources and climate regulations—namely those agreed to by most of the world’s nations under the Paris Agreement—threaten its existence.” Similar resolutions backed by environmentalists have been consistently defeated at previous meetings, The Associated Press reported. Read more. [Scientific American, The Associated Press]
- Jordan Spieth, the No. 2 golfer in the world, was paired with actor Bill Murray for a round Wednesday. The 22-year-old Dallasite and the beloved comedian teamed up for the pro-am at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth during the Dean & DeLuca Invitational this week into the weekend. Spieth told Forth Worth Star-Telegram that he was looking forward to the game: “I consider him a friend. Every time we see each other, we come up and have a talk. It’ll be a lot of fun. I was really excited to hear about the pairing. It’ll keep things really light today. I’ll try and hold back on the “Caddyshack” references today.” Read more. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
- A rare sight — a 7-foot alligator was found outside D. A. Hulcy Steam Middle School in Dallas early Wednesday morning. The Texas Game Wardens and Dallas police caught the animal before 4:30 a.m. just feet from the middle school, WFAA reported. There’s a small creek and pond nearby the school, officials said, but where the gator came from is still uncertain. The game wardens’ office said it’s not usual for alligators to be displaced after periods of heavy rain, WFAA reported. The alligator was taken to a preserve in Dallas County. Watch the capture. [WFAA]