Eighth-grader from Gregory Middle School going to county spelling bee

<p>Spelling bee winner Viraja Alluri. | Submitted</p>

Spelling bee winner Viraja Alluri. | Submitted

Buy it on DVD Through a partnership with Naperville Community Television, DVDs of the District 204 Spelling Bee are available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds go to the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation. Visit NCTV17.com for information.

Viraja Alluri wasn’t incognito during the Indian Prairie School District 204 spelling bee. Instead, the eighth-grader from Gregory Middle School was front-and-center as the winner during the annual district-wide competition.

“Winning the district spelling bee for me meant I was one step closer to going to the national bee,” said Alluri, 13. “It made me so proud to have the chance to represent my school in the first-place position. They provided me with the opportunity, and I felt like by winning I was giving back to them in a way.”

This year’s competition included 21 students from seven area middle schools and went 21 rounds on Feb. 3. Alluri spelled “incognito” correctly to capture the championship.

“When I heard ‘incognito,’ I was flooded with an immense wave of relief,” she said. “Not only was it the championship word, it was one that I was quite familiar with. As I was standing up there, I couldn’t help but break out into a huge grin. I was so grateful to have gotten a word that I knew and spelled it with much confidence.”

Second place went to Jonathan Li, a sixth-grade student at Scullen Middle School.

Hill Middle School eighth-grade student Arjun Sundararajan was the third-place winner.

The three District 204 winners will move on to compete in the countywide ComEd/DuPage County Spelling Bee Finals later this month. The Scripps National Bee will take place May 25-31 in Washington, D.C.

Gregory teacher Kiki LaBianca said Alluri has what it takes to make it to Washington.

“She gives her all to everything she tackles, whether it be in the classroom or on the basketball court,” LaBianca said. “Viraja has what many middle school students strive for and that is dedication. She doesn’t do activities without giving her best, and she is admired by both her teachers as well as her classmates for that reason.”

Principal Steve Severson shared the sentiment. “Viraja is a fine student and a wonderful person,” Severson said. “She has worked hard to improve on her spelling bee experience last year, and it is exciting to see that her hard work paid off. I am excited to see how well she does at the next level. She has prepared herself to do very well.”

The county spelling bee takes place Wednesday, Feb. 26, in Wheaton.

Nominate a student for consideration in Academic Spotlight by emailing hpfundstein@stmedianetwork.com.