Spelling Bee

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana holds up the championship trophy after winning the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Disney World Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) ORG XMIT: FLJR121

Southern University became the third Louisiana academic institution to offer a full-ride scholarship to Zaila Avant-garde, the Harvey 14-year-old who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Ray L. Belton, Southern University president-chancellor, tweeted Saturday evening that he would not only offer her a scholarship, but also create a "Zaila Day" at the school.  

"Our student leaders, faculty, and alumni look forward meeting with you," he wrote. "We welcome you to the #JaguarNation!"

A Southern University spokesperson clarified in an email that "the university will work to schedule a personalized 'Zaila Day' on campus, where Zaila can meet with student leaders, faculty, alumni and more!"

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Belton's offer comes after the new LSU president, William Tate, offered the teen a full-ride scholarship and welcomed her to the LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College Saturday morning. 

And on Friday, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System became the first academic institution to offer Zaila a full scholarship to attend any community and technical college in the state. 

Zaila has previously said she was interested in attending Harvard University. 

She won the $50,000 spelling bee on Thursday night by correctly spelling her final word, Murraya, a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees. She also holds three Guinness World Records for basketball, which she's said is her true passion. She hopes to one day play in the WNBA or possibly coach in the NBA.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the number of schools that have offered Zaila a scholarship and the order of those offers. 


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com