by Cara Chandler
Congratulations to eighth grade Francis W. Parker Montessori 56 student Raniya
Carter, winner of the IPS District Spelling Bee. Raniya advances to the regional
round on March 24.
Raniya Carter is an amazing young lady. She hasn’t let the tough things in her
life define her, which is remarkable for an eighth grader – or anyone, for that
matter. In fact, she’s clearly flourished in spite of (or maybe even because of)
them. She embodies everything we want our students in Indianapolis Public
Schools to be: resilient, gritty, driven, full of integrity and character, and, perhaps
most importantly, in possession of a wonderful sense of humor. Oh, and she has
excellent spelling skills, of course.
I didn’t know Raniya at all before I interviewed her, but now we are buddies. I
fired question after question at her, and she responded with alacrity and a
healthy dose of self-confidence. At one point about three quarters of the way
through, I asked her, “How is this interview for you? Are you doing okay with all
these questions?” She fired right back, “I like it! I like answering all your questions.
Ask me some more!”
I get the sense that that is pretty much how Raniya goes through life: passionate,
direct, and enthusiastic about everything that captures her interest. She is cleareyed, well-spoken, witty – and intense. She is unusually self-possessed for an
eighth grader, which captured my interest. As I continued with my questions, it
became clear where her poise comes from. Raniya has had more than her
share of obstacles in her life – ones that would have a significantly adverse
effect on anyone. She has had to grow up way sooner than most of us; the
tough things in her life showed up early on and haven’t gone away. It’s hard to
explain her grit and resilience without putting her business out there, but it almost
doesn’t matter what the tough things are. Raniya has chosen to thrive in the
midst of them, and the person she is becoming is truly remarkable.
By the time I was done talking to Raniya, it was not at all shocking that she won
our IPS District Spelling Bee. She said she’s always been a good speller, but that
last year she didn’t make it. She didn’t like that feeling, so she decided that this
year she would make it – and, obviously she did just what she set out to do. I
suspect, however, that her winning the spelling bee is less about her spelling
ability (although clearly it’s tremendous) and more about her determination.
When Raniya wants something or decides something, I’m not sure there’s
anything out there that could stop her.After the Bee Granny wanted to take the trophy home, so Principal Rembert
allowed them to treat it like the Stanley Cup and keep it for a bit. I can easily
imagine Raniya parading around her house with the trophy, her infectious smile
and eyes full of mischievous sparkle delighting everyone, pride billowing off her
in waves. A few generations of Raniya’s family have attended Parker 56, so for
her to round out a family legacy with a huge District Spelling Bee trophy is
nothing less than perfectly fitting.
Raniya dives right in to whatever is in front of her with passion, enthusiasm, and
her whole heart: softball, school, poetry, and, obviously, spelling. She thinks she
might want to be an OB/GYN – but she’s also open to changing her mind. For
now she just embraces with world with all that it brings, and she allows her
tenacity and resolve to guide her. Raniya reminded me over and over again
about how it is not the tough things in life that make us who we are; it’s how we
decide to face them. Raniya calls us all to meet life with resiliency and
determination – and a sense of humor. May we all be like (and spell like) Raniya.