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City citation spells success

Bayside Hills seventh-grader Arvind Mahankali (c.) receives a Council citation for placing third in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from City Councilmen Dan Halloran (l.) and Mark Weprin (r.). Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

For the rest of his life, Bayside Hills seventh-grader Arvind Mahankali said he would never forget the word “schwannoma” and neither would City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

Mahankali, who placed third for the second year in a row last month in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, was eliminated from the contest when he could not spell the word that describes a tumor of the peripheral nerve. Coincidentally, Halloran said he was still recovering from brain surgery to remove a benign schwannoma near the left side of his head.

“It is a very ironic situation,” Halloran said. “Luckily, it worked out for the both of us in the end.”

Halloran joined Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) Monday to present the spelling guru with a Council citation for being named a finalist.

“We are all very proud of Arvind. His accomplishment was amazing,” Halloran said. “It took tremendous hours of preparation and it is a testament to the hard work of both Arvind and his parents.”

The seventh-grader at MS 74 Nathaniel Hawthorne, at 61-15 Oceania St. in Oakland Gardens, said he practiced with his parents for two hours every weekday and six hours a day every weekend in the weeks leading up to the event.

“This is an accomplishment that impresses everyone,” Weprin said. “Arvind has made New York City very proud.”

Principal Anthony Armstrong did not stop smiling throughout the presentation.

“Arvind brought spelling into fashion,” Armstrong joked.

And even though he ended in third place for the second year in a row, Mahankali said he still planned on returning to the competition next year. He said he would continue studying the dictionary with his parents, and hopefully master the entire book.

“I feel very privileged to be honored in this way and I’m happy that New York City is happy because of what I did,” Mahankali said. “I could not have done this without my parents.”

Mahankali’s father, Srinivas Mahankali, said he was thankful for both his son’s effort and the school’s support in helping to bolster the bee finalist. He said his son heard about the spelling bee while watching television and wanted to be a part of it ever since.

“We are so elated as a family to be recognized for Arvind’s work,” Srinivas Mahankali said. “He always displayed a lot of fondness towards words.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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