Suburban Mosaic: How local spellers fared in the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Though they didn't get to raise the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship trophy, four suburban spellers made an impressive stand on the most competitive national linguistic stage during last week's competition in Washington, D.C.

Our contenders were Srinidhi Rao, 13, of Hinsdale, a seventh-grader at Hinsdale Middle School; Francis Nnodi, 14, of Carpentersville, an eighth-grader at St. Catherine of Siena School in West Dundee; Vishrut Kinikar, 13, of Cary, a seventh-grader at Cary Junior High School; and Daphne Gil, 14, of Deerfield, an eighth-grader at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield. Xanthangummi

Suburban Mosaic: How local spellers fared in the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Srinidhi has been to nationals twice before, previously competing as a third-grader in 2019, when she tied for 51st place, and as a fifth-grader in 2021, tying for 111th place.

This time, she got tripped up in the quarterfinals with the word phenolphthalein.

With new rule changes, Srinidhi and other spellers weren't allowed to ask clarification questions on international scientific vocabulary.

Multiple-choice vocabulary questions were introduced to the competition two years ago.

“I felt a little devastated,” said Srinidhi of the loss.

But true to form, she began working immediately after being eliminated, brushing up on scientific words. Srinidhi is even more determined now that next year will be her last competing.

“I'll actually work a bit more harder and get it this year in eighth grade,” she said. “I actually made a list (of 2,500 words) already and I'm going to cram it up.”

Francis, Vishrut and Daphne were first-timers on the national Bee stage.

Francis tied for 141st place. He was eliminated in the second round after getting this question wrong: “What is an example of a brogue?” The correct answer is an Irish accent.

Vishrut tied for 74th place. He was eliminated in the fourth round after misspelling noctovision.

Daphne tied for 12th place. She was eliminated in the eighth round after misspelling conversazione.

The third annual Lake County PrideFest celebrating Pride Month will take place Saturday at the Round Lake Beach Cultural & Civic Center, 2007 N. Civic Center Way.

The free, family-friendly outdoor festival will feature a lineup of musical entertainment and performances, food trucks, a beer and beverage tent, craft and artisan vendors, a resource fair, games and entertainment for children, drag performers, and dancing.

This year's sponsors are Old National Bank and Boy Scouts of America Northeast Illinois Council.

“The LGBTQ+ Center Lake County is thrilled to host Lake County PrideFest, our biggest annual event of the year,” said Javier Martinez, board chair. “The center's board and staff have been working hard to ensure the event is entertaining, resourceful, and welcoming for everyone in our community.”

PrideFest will kickoff at noon with a resource fair, craft and artisan market, entertainment including arts and crafts, face painting, drag queen story time, an inflatable soccer field, and mobile gaming unit. There will be raffles, including a live-painting mural by Mike Harrison, a New York City decorator.

Later in the day, there will be a drag variety show by Auntie Heroine & friends, a performance by Mariachi Viva Jalisco, followed by Libertyville band Charlie Foxtrot. This year's headliner is BETTY, a queer alternative rock group known for its music in the popular LGBTQ+ television show, “The L Word.”

About 3,000 people attended last year's festival, organizers said.

“This year is our biggest event ever,” said Jen Houghton, program manager. “We've got a bigger stage with nonstop entertainment all day and night. We're also at a gorgeous new venue and we're filling the event with tons of activities for the whole family. We're hoping to welcome 4,000 people from across the county (and surrounding areas).”

The festival will close at 10 p.m. followed by an after-party with a DJ and dancing at Light the Lamp Brewery in Grayslake.

For more information about the LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, visit

Aurora University's new president, Susana Rivera-Mills, took the helm of the private Christian institution on June 1.

Rivera-Mills, 52, is the 14th president, first Latina and only the second woman to lead Aurora University since its founding in 1893.

She was appointed after a six-month search by a presidential search committee comprising trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and students.

Rivera-Mills was 12 years old when her family fled war in her native El Salvador. She is a former first-generation college student.

“She is a dynamic, authentic leader and a thoughtful listener who has lived the experience of many of our students,” said John Ammons, chairman of the university board and of its Presidential Search Committee.

Rivera-Mills previously was the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she supported first-generation college students, helped ensure equity and inclusion in hiring, promotion and tenure processes, and faculty and staff retention.

The American Multi Ethnic Coalition and Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force will hold its Congressional Global Community Oscars Awards Gala at 5 p.m. June 17, at The Yellow Box, 1635 Emerson Lane in Naperville.

This year's event will highlight the achievements of individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on their communities and have gone above and beyond to make a difference, such as in the areas of education, health care and environmental sustainability.

Three suburban churches are teaming up to welcome the crowds at Aurora's Pride parade on Sunday.

The New England Congregational and Wesley United Methodist churches, both in Aurora, and Unitarian Universalist Society in Geneva will conduct a joint worship service following a community breakfast.

Wesley UMC volunteers will make and serve “Pride Cakes” from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at New England, 406 W. Galena Blvd.

Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

“We (will) eat, rally, worship and walk to the parade together,” said the Rev. Brandon Perrine, New England's senior minister.

Groups from the three churches also will march in the parade.

The fourth annual Aurora Pride parade kicks off at noon at East Benton Street and South Broadway. The city's annual Pride flag-raising ceremony will be held Friday.

The Mount Prospect Interfaith Council is hosting an interfaith prayer for peace and healing at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 200 S. Wille St., Mount Prospect.

Among the participating organizations are Lorna Byrne's Circle of Light, Congregation Beth Judea of Long Grove, the Niagara Foundation, St. Mark Lutheran Church, and Roman Catholic Women Priests.

“Healing and peace are valued in all of our traditions,” said pastor Christie Webb of St. Mark Lutheran Church. “Gathering to pray together for it, each in the unique voice of our traditions, reminds us of how we are united and builds community and connection so we might live toward more peace and healing in our world.”

Suburban Mosaic: How local spellers fared in the Scripps National Spelling Bee

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