Rich or Rehab: Whatever Happened to the 'Spellbound' Kids?

The Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned Kavya Shivashankar its new champion last week. All the media attention on the Kansas girl who clinched a victory by correctly spelling the word “Laodicean” may have reminded some observers of the 2002 documentary “Spellbound,” which followed the often intense competition between several smart young wordsmiths during the 1999 bee. spellbound1

Since 10 years have passed since that sharply captured showdown in Washington, D.C.’s took place, it’s only natural to wonder what has happened to some of the key kids who starred in “Spellbound.” Allow me to attempt to provide a few answers A-S-A-P. (That spells, um, ASAP.)

How do you spell “Rich or Rehab”?

While filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz introduced us to several kids in “Spellbound,” eight children played more prominent roles. Here’s the rundown on what all of them are doing now, based on info I could readily track down via the World Wide Web.

Neil Kadakia went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley, enrolling as a freshman at the ripe age of 16. The sparse public information found on his Facebook page indicates that he graduated from Berkeley in 2007, but it’s unclear exactly what he’s doing now. (Got some intel? Please share it below in the comments.)

Emily Stagg attended Carleton College in Minnesota and, according to her Facebook page, is currently a grad student at Yale. Back in 2006, she wrote this essay for the New York Times, in which she argued that some modifications to the bee’s traditional format could benefit its participants.

Ashley White has perhaps the most compelling post-“Spellbound” story. The D.C. native got pregnant and had a child at the age of 18, but managed to work part-time jobs while earning an undergraduate degree at Howard University and raising her daughter. As of last year, according to this Washington Post story, Ashley was planning to get a master’s degree in social work and was even looking farther down the road at a Ph.D.

April DeGideo, whose doting, adorable mother was one of my favorite people in “Spellbound,” earned a degree in journalism in 2007, according to Wikipedia. If this LinkedIn page is accurate, she currently works at Progressive Business Publications in Philadelphia.

Harry Altman, a kid who possessed an unparalleled talent for making bizarre faces, went on to major in math and computer science at the University of Chicago. He appears to be pursuing graduate studies at the University of Michigan and currently has 419 friends on Facebook.

Angela Arenivar has made her love of the Spanish language a focus of her life. Her Linked In page says she earned a B.A. in Spanish at Texas A&M University, and is following that with a master’s in Spanish from the University of New Mexico, where she also acts as a teaching assistant.

Nupur Lala, who won the “Spellbound” bee, went on to attend the University of Michigan, graduating in 2007. Wikipedia says she is now a technical assistant in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.

And lastly, the saddest of the “Spellbound” stories. Ted Brigham, a Missouri native, died in 2007 while pursuing medical school in Kansas City. It’s unclear what the cause of death was, but it’s certainly clear that he left this world much too soon.

Article Posted 8 years Ago

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