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Student Spotlight: Sheneli De Silva, Young Women’s Academy

Student standing with El Paso downtown in the background.

(YOUNG WOMEN'S ACADEMY – Aug. 3, 2022) – Trilingual Sheneli De Silva’s propensity for spelling earned her top honors at the 2022 Spanish National Spelling Bee last weekend. The YWA eighth grader’s spelling prowess isn’t limited to Spanish. She’s also the 2020 El Paso Regional Spelling Bee champ, a title she claimed as a fifth grader at Mesita Elementary. Sheneli spoke virtually with Community Engagement to discuss spelling bee strategies in this week’s Student Spotlight.


EPISD: How did it feel to win the Spanish National Spelling Bee?

Sheneli De Silva: I felt extremely happy, and I was proud of myself.

Student holding winner's plaque and check.

EPISD: How long have you been competing in the Spanish Bee?

SDS: This was my first year competing in the Spanish Bee.


EPISD: How did you prepare for the Spanish Spelling Bee?

SDS: I studied hard the given word list, the rules of spelling and reviewed the dictionary for some additional words.


EPISD: You seem to have a propensity for spelling in both languages. What's your strategy?

SDS: My strategy is to work hard. If you work hard, you will get your reward.


EPISD: Tell us about the languages you speak, in addition to English and Spanish.

SDS: My parents are from Sri Lanka and I was born in the US. We as a family speak Sinhalese at home in order not to forget it.


EPISD: What are you involved in at school besides spelling?

SDS: I am involved in UIL competitions (math, and spelling), National Junior Honor Society and track events (800-meter run and triple jump).


EPISD: What tips or tricks would you offer other spellers?

SDS: You will need to study the given list well, identify the common patterns and rules and find words outside the list and try spelling them out. Also, make sure you listen to the pronouncer carefully.


EPISD: What do you want to be when you grow up?

SDS: I would like to be a doctor and a medical teacher when I grow up.


EPISD: Anything you want to add?

SDS: I would like to thank everyone who supported me during my spelling bee journey. Firstly, I would like to thank my coach, Mr. Arriaga, for dedicating his time to study with me, my school principal, Dr. Ontiveros, for encouraging me that I could do it. I also would like to thank Dr. Potter and Dr. Jayasuriya from UTEP for their kind advice. And last but not least, thank you to my parents, (especially my mother) and my sister, who guided and gave me courage the whole time. I wouldn’t have won without their support.

Student holding check and plaque with family.