NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Most six year olds are learning how to spell words like “bike” or “feet.” Akash Vukoti successfully spelled “circumspectly” at his local spelling bee in Texas to become the youngest competitor in this week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“That was too easy,” Akash said about spelling “circumspectly.” “It has a ‘y’ at the end.”
Akash defeated children twice his age at the San Angelo, Texas Spelling Bee
en route to his spot in the 2016 national Bee. Akash’s journey to the national Bee since qualifying in March has been adventurous.
Akash appeared on Steve Harvey’s daytime talk show as well as Harvey’s primetime show “Little Big Shots.” Harvey tried to match wits with Akash in a spelling contest. Harvey incorrectly spelled all three words given, while Akash spelled three words correctly including “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.”
The appearances on Harvey’s shows changed Akash’s future ambitions. Instead of wanting to be an astronaut when he grows up, he now wants to be an actor.
Attending his first Bee, Akash said he feels great about going against children who are twice his age.
After taking an hour-long preliminary test, Akash is using Tuesday afternoon to study before Wednesday’s second round.
“I study very hard,” Akash said. “I study at least one to three hours (a day). I find words randomly because there are words you never heard before.”
For parents Krishna Vukoti and Chandrakala Jandyam, there is a sense of pride in watching their child accomplish so much at a young age, they said.
“His hard work paid off, he started spelling when he was 2,” Akash’s father Krishna Vukoti said. “These are the lifetime moments for him. We are so happy and proud.”
“I am sure he is not nervous, we are as parents,” Vukoti added. “For Akash taking the test and going to the next levels and being a finalist, we are not nervous about that. He is 6 years old and this is his first time, and there are other kids who deserve to be in the top 50. At the same time, this would be a great experience.”
Jandyam said that Harvey took a liking to Akash’s personality, a personality that is full of animation. Akash will be one of 284 spellers to take the stage Wednesday for the second round of the Bee, which will be streamed live on ESPN3 beginning at 8 a.m.
While Akash, a homeschooled first grader, can spell words many adults cannot, he enjoys many of the same activities children his age relish. Among his favorite activities are swimming and jumping on trampolines.
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk.Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.