Danyah Imam, 13, faced her opponent at the Baltimore Spelling Bee and then spelled out the word E-N-B-A-Y-M-E-N-T. “Embayment—it was the first time I had heard the word, but I picked [the spelling] up from the definition,” says Danyah. Her opponent cheered for her—her younger brother Shaheer, who was the 2012 champion from Baltimore and the youngest ever winner of the Baltimore Bee. This competitive logophile is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May in Washington D.C.
“I wasn’t that nervous in the beginning, it got more exciting when my brother and I were the last two people on stage,” she quips.
Its a family affair for the Imams. “In 3rd grade I didn’t know anything about the Spelling Bee. Then I saw my brother win. Last year, I won 2nd place and I really wanted to come in first and alhamdulillah I did,” declares Danyah. Danyah has been an Al Rahmah school student since kindergarten (homeschooled for 1st and 2nd grade). She devotes the majority of her extra time, after Quran, homework and projects to spelling words.
Her parents and siblings train with her. She has been studying from the dictionary as well as other lists, such as the Scripps word list. Learning the roots of words is really imprtant, she adds.
Preparing for the nationals is serious business. “International competitiors come from all over the world. These are very brights kids who have been competing for a few years— this is her first time,” says Qaiser Imam, Danyah’s father, who keeps and eye out on competitions for his children to enter.
If anyone thought that Danyah is just a word junkie, she has also won first place in the 2014 Baltimore science Fair from American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and will be presenting her project, Carbon Dioxide and its Effects on Global Warming at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“I was competing last year. I think I have always been a little bit competitive,” she says. Aspiring to become a medical doctor, she enjoys attending the science fair to get ideas and seeing what other people her age are doing.
Can anyone spell prodigious?