A Guinness World Record holder for her basketball skills, Zaila Avant-garde is also a successful speller, winning the first-ever Kaplan Online Spelling Bee. Zaila, 14, won $10,000 and free Kaplan pre-college test prep courses. The Kaplan Bee was developed after the 2020 Scripps National Spelling Bee was canceled due to COVID-19.
“I have always been interested in reading, so spelling was more or less a natural progression,” Zaila says. She spends a lot of time studying spelling words and she was also the 2019 New Orleans regional spelling champion.
An eighth grade homeschooler from Harvey, Zaila’s opportunities to compete have diminished. “Most spelling bees you can’t participate after your eighth grade year.”
Zaila’s interest in achieving a world record began when she received a Guinness Book for her eighth birthday and she put her plan into action when she turned 13. “I actually have two Guinness Book world records right now,” she says. “One is for most bounces in one minute with three basketballs. The other is most juggles in one minute with four basketballs.”
An avid reader, Zaila enjoys The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Zaila also likes to hang out with her family, parents Alma Heard and Jawara Spacetime, and brothers Sol, Zwe and Wonder. She hopes to be a WNBA player and has aspirations to become an archaeologist or basketball coach. With her athletic and academic prowess, Zaila is certainly one amazing kid.