CCA learner is spelling bee champ, published author, Mensa member and pilot-in-training
Ashraya “Ashie” Ananthanarayanan said her friends joke that she became a two-time Scripps state and national spelling bee champion because of her last name.
While others might cringe at the daunting string of vowels and consonants in her name, Ashie seems adept at making even the most difficult tasks -- such as flying a plane, writing books and winning a litany of academic awards -- look easy.
Ashie, 15, of Montgomery County, is a published author, beauty pageant winner, airplane pilot-in-training, Mensa member, golfer, competitive dancer, piano performer and app developer.
Her first book, “Ring of Hope,’’ is about a girl who rescues a baby turtle. It received a recognition letter from former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Her second book, “Aria,’’ has 51 poems in various styles.
“I've always been somewhat of an adventurous person," said Ashie, who is planning to start solo flight training when she turns 16 on Nov. 29.
A junior entering her third year in Commonwealth Charter Academy, Ashie attended Spring-Ford Area School District before making the switch to a school that affords her the challenges and flexibility she needs.
“It was hard to fit in [flying] lessons in my brick-and-mortar school,” said Ashie, who is taking all honors and Advanced Placement courses at CCA. “I am a student who likes to push myself to the maximum.’’
Ashie and fellow CCA learners recently competed in the Real World Design Challenge, organized by a public-private partnership that runs the contests in various states for high school students interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Their project involved designing an unmanned aerial vehicle that could search for a lost child on a ranch in New Mexico. They won first place in the state contest -- the third year in a row that a CCA team took the top honor -- and represented Pennsylvania in the national competition.
Ashie also won top honors for academic achievement and character at the National American Miss state pageant in Harrisburg in 2014. She was crowned as the prestigious State Ambassador and winner of the Spirit of America award.
Ashie, who is fluent in seven Indian languages along with French and Latin, said her goal is to become a civil litigation advocate or a corporate or criminal lawyer. She is hoping to pursue a career in the Air Force's Judge Advocate General's Corps, combining her love of flying and the law.
The teachers at CCA are “all pretty wonderful,” Ashie said. Her geography teacher, in particular, talks to her often by phone. The teacher is “patient and is always willing to answer my questions,” she said.
"CCA is a platform that allows students like myself to improve professionally, academically, in my extracurriculars and individually,’’ she said.
"Thanks to CCA, I don't lose out on opportunities,’’ Ashie said. “I can expand my wings and fly."