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When Camino Real Middle School (CRMS) eighth grader Joshua Jones arrived at Bowie High School in El Paso March 6, he was among more than 150 students waiting to compete in the 2020 El Paso Regional Spelling Bee.
The first round of spelling and vocabulary questions reduced the number of contestants to 62, and several hours later, Joshua had correctly spelled words like “vitriolic,” “bruxism” and “unctuous” as he outlasted all but one other speller.
Joshua, 13, misspelled “achromatic” and wound up in second place in the competition, which was won by El Paso’s Mesita Elementary School fifth grader Sheneli De Silva, who advances to the national spelling bee in May in Washington, D.C.
Joshua earned a place in the regional spelling bee by winning CRMS’s spelling championship in late 2019. The winning word was “derogatory.”
Joshua said both his mother, Doris Bosco, and stepfather, Peter Vadamanikam, were very supportive of his participation in the spelling bee, and he practiced spelling words one to two hours a night beginning long before the competition. In fact, Joshua remembers Vadamanikam saying, “Where’s that list?” as the trio headed out to dinner one night.
In addition to practicing his spelling skills, Joshua said he worked on ways to stay calm and not be distracted during the spelling bee. Techniques include always asking the word pronouncer for a definition of the word, as well as seeking any alternative pronunciations and to have the word used in a sentence.
Joshua, who moved to Las Cruces from Bangalore, India, in 2018, said his mother was more stressed during the competition than he was.
Spelling “comes very naturally to him,” Bosco said, “because we’re from an English-speaking family.” Their native Bangalore is the “information technology hub of India,” she said. Each state in India has its own language, she said, including Tamil in the state of Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital.
“I personally love languages,” said Bosco, who speaks six languages and is learning Spanish. She works for x2nSat, a satellite communications company in Las Cruces.
Joshua said he also is helped out as a speller because he loves to read and makes a practice of looking up words he doesn’t know when he comes across them. Learning about word origins has also been useful, Joshua said, because it helps with understanding the rules for spelling different prefixes and suffixes.
“I’m just proud of him,” said CRMS Principal Ralph Ramos, who said Joshua’s second-place finish in the spelling bee was as important to CRMS as winning a sports championship.
“We try to find everyone’s niche,” Ramos said. His goal is “a well-rounded student when they leave CRMS.”
Joshua will be a student at Arrowhead Park Medical Academy, Las Cruces Public Schools’ second early college high school on the NMSU campus, next fall. He hopes to study at Harvard Medical School and become a neurosurgeon.