Pilibos Honors Spelling Bee Finalist

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN LOS ANGLES–Alex Pilibos eighth-grader Amir Kasouha was ranked 17th in the nation during last week’s Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington–earning him the title of "best speller" in California.

Kasouha–who was the winner of the Daily News Spelling Bee in March–went to Washington and was a semi-finalist until he was stumped on the word "theriomorphic," thus not becoming part of the 16 finalists to compete.

"Getting 17th [place]–that’s pretty good–especially for coming here the first time," Kasouha told the Daily News on the telephone from Washington.

The first-place award went to 12-year-old Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell who won a trophy and a $10,000 prize for spelling the word "chiaroscurist."

During an assembly honoring Kasouha at Pilibos–principal Viken Yacoubian praised the eighth grader and his coach and teacher Jackie Mishlar–who prepared Kasouha for the national competition.

Yacoubian stated that through Kasouha’s participation in the Spelling Bee "the school was elevated to a new level."

He went on to tell his junior high school students of the state- and nation-wide achievemen’s the school has earned in the past academic year–stating that the commitment of the students has enable the Alex Pilibos school to become a contender in these competitions such as the state and county science fairs and the spelling bee.

"At such a young age Amir has already become a role model," stated Yacoubian who praised the eighth graders national achievemen’s.

To loud cheers and applause from his sixth to eighth grade peers–Kasouha went to the microphone to discuss this important accomplishment.

Kasouha was one of just 13 participants from California.

"I wasn’t nervous," Kasouha told his classmates–after he thanked principal Yacoubian–Mishlar and the rest of the Pilibos community.

Kasouha went on to detail the process of the national competition–diligently answering his classmates’ questions–which ranged from inquiries of Kasouha’s state of mind to his preparatory work for the competition.

At the end he told his peers the secret of becoming a spelling bee participant: "stay calm–try your best and leave the rest to God."

Alex Pilibos school has been in the spotlight of late for its participation and wins in state and country science fairs.

The Daily News–which sponsored the Los Angeles County spelling bee–was also on hand to cover the assembly.

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