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Arizona’s Top Spellers to Compete in Arizona Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 20th, 2021

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AZ Spelling Bee Finalist Press Release 2
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Matthew Feller l 480-228-6407

Phoenix, Ariz., March 8, 2021 — They are just like any other kids. They play video games, hang out with friends, sing, dance, and participate in sports. But when they are not doing those things, the state’s top 27 spellers – ranging from grades 3 through 8 – are studying and practicing for the 2021 Arizona State Spelling Bee.

The road leading up to the Arizona Spelling Bee began in December when schools throughout the state held qualifying bees. All Arizona schools including public, private, charter, and homeschools are eligible to compete. Winners progressed to district bees in January and then county and regional Bees in February. Photos and short bios of each of the finalists are available upon request.

The student who wins the State Spelling Bee goes on to represent Arizona as the official State Champion in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Arizona has one of the largest Spelling Bee participation rates in the nation, with close to 300,000 students competing each year from public, private, charter, and homeschools statewide. This year, The Arizona Educational Foundation, who is the official State Spelling Bee coordinator, is the recipient of a $18,700 grant from Thunderbirds Charities to support the Arizona State Spelling Bee. “Managing a program of this magnitude is no small feat,” says Matthew Feller, Arizona State Bee Director. “Having support from Thunderbirds Charities will go a long way in ensuring students have an exceptional experience.”

“We are excited to support AEF’s Arizona State Spelling Bee," said Tim Woods, Thunderbirds Charities President. "The goal of this program is to improve students verbal and written literacy skills and build self-confidence. We are proud to be part of this ongoing tradition in the State of Arizona.”

This year, out of an abundance of caution, the Arizona State Bee will be a virtual event using an online competition platform developed by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Last year, Scripps cancelled the National Bee, which is annually held in May of each year in Washington D.C., because of COVID. This year Scripps has announced the National Bee will occur virtually with 10 top competitors from the virtual competition being invited to an exclusive in-person final competition at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Florida.

AEF will announce the AEF Arizona Spelling Bee Champion following the competition on Saturday March 20th. The exact time of the announcement time will vary depending on the length of the bee.

This is the 23rd year the event is being coordinated by the Arizona Educational Foundation. For more details about the AEF Spelling Bee program, please visit

2021 State of Arizona Spelling Bee Finalists:

Apache County: Kaitlyn Nielsen – 8th grade, age 13, St. Johns Middle School, St. Johns Unified School District

Cochise County: Cadence Flores – 8th grade, age 14, Colonel Smith Middle School, Fort Huachuca Accommodation District

Coconino County: Mae Bradford – 8th grade, age 13, BASIS Flagstaff

Gila County: Aislyn Alexander – 5th grade, age 11, Lee Kornegay Intermediate School, Miami Unified School District

Graham County: Ashlee Horgan – 6th grade, age 11, Pima Elementary School, Pima School District

Greenlee County: Arianna Ford – 7th grade, age 12, Duncan Elementary, Duncan Unified School District

La Paz County: Michael Hill – 7th grade, age 12, Le Pera Elementary, Parker Unified School District

Maricopa County Region 1: Ivan Favela – 6th grade, age 11, Patterson Elementary School, Mesa Public Schools

Maricopa County Region 1: Drew Passmonick – 7th grade, age 12, Kyrene Digital Academy, Kyrene Unified School District

Maricopa County Region 2: Sai Manvik Malreddy – 6th grade, age 11, Fireside Elementary School, Paradise Valley Unified School District

Maricopa County Region 2: Jaime Prendiville – 6th grade, age 11, Desert Springs Preparatory Elementary School, Paradise Valley Unified School District

Maricopa County Region 3: Ananya Goli – 5th grade, age 10, BASIS Phoenix Central

Maricopa County Region 3: Bran’nu Brown – 7th grade, age 12, Loyola Academy, The Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Schools

Maricopa County Region 4: Adriana Lauterborn – 7th grade, age 12, Saint Simon and Jude Cathedral School, The Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Schools

Maricopa County Region 4: Braedyn Matthews – 8th grade, age 12, Heritage Elementary School, Peoria Unified School District

Maricopa County Region 5: Leo Carranza – 7th grade, age 12, Avondale Middle School, Avondale Elementary District

Maricopa County Region 5: Jazmin Monge – 8th grade, age 13, Palo Verde Elementary School, Palo Verde Elementary District

Maricopa County Region 6: Esha Marupudi – 3th grade, age 8, BASIS Chandler Primary South

Maricopa County Region 6: Cayden Brenes – 5th grade, age 10, Jacobson Elementary, Chandler Unified School District

Mohave County: Anne Mariyah Rosales – 6th grade, age 12, White Cliffs Middle School, Kingman Unified School District

Navajo County: Jackson Woods – 8th grade, age 12, Blue Ridge Junior High, Blue Ridge Unified School District

Pima County: Brady Mau – 8th grade, age 13, Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8, Marana Unified School District

Pima County: Tanish Doshi – 8th grade, age 13, BASIS Oro Valley

Pinal County: Cody Lorenzo Hooper – 4th grade, age 9, Ellsworth Elementary School, J.O. Combs Unified School District

Santa Cruz County: Michael Pentland, 6th grade, age 11, Desert Shadows Middle School, Nogales Unified District

Yavapai County: Aliyah Alpert – 5th grade, age 9, Alpert Homeschool

Yuma County: Taylor Arun – 7th grade, age 12, Ron Watson Middle School, Yuma Elementary School District

About Arizona Educational Foundation: The mission of AEF is to identify, support and celebrate excellence in Pre-K-12th grade Arizona public education through business and community partnerships. We do this through a variety of programs for teachers, administrators, and students. Some of our programs shine a spotlight on excellence; others provide a steppingstone to help support schools and educators on the road to awesomeness. In addition to the Arizona Teacher of the Year program, AEF also coordinates the Arizona State Spelling Bee, the A+ School of Excellence Award, the Principals Leadership Academy of Arizona, teachSTEM, and Take Your Legislator to School. AEF was founded in 1983 by then State Superintendent of Public Education, Carolyn Warner, who felt a nonprofit needed to be established to champion public education and recognize the great work of public school educators.

About Thunderbirds Charities: The Thunderbirds began in 1937, when the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce expanded its role as a convention and tourism bureau. There was a need for a special events committee to venture into new fields. Five young executives were selected to lead the committee. The Phoenix Chamber of Commerce suggested that the committee become an “official” group and expand its membership. Each of the five then selected ten additional members to make up a committee of 55. The Thunderbird name was chosen because the emblem of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was, and still is, a Thunderbird derived from American Indian symbols. One of the early inductees was Bob Goldwater, an avid golfer. Goldwater thought it would be a great idea to sponsor a golf tournament. That first year, Goldwater sold the tickets, recruited volunteers and set up the golf course at the Phoenix Country Club. The Phoenix Open caught on, and in 83 years, has developed into one of the leading stops on the PGA TOUR. Goldwater was Tournament Chairman from 1934 through 1951 and is affectionately called the “Father of The Phoenix Open.” Active Thunderbird membership is limited to 55 members. Each has demonstrated a sincere interest in sports and a dedication to community affairs. All Thunderbird activities and events are the prime responsibility of these Active Thunderbirds and are under the watchful eye of the Big Chief and Thunderbird Council. When a Thunderbird reaches the age of 45, their status changes from Active to that of Life Member. Although they are relieved of continuous duties, it is not unusual to see a Life Thunderbird lending a helping hand at The Waste Management Phoenix Open or one of the many other Thunderbird-sponsored events. To date, there are over 300 members comprising The Thunderbirds organization.


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