HOUSTON (KIAH) — The National Spelling Bee is underway and three local junior high students are competing this year. One is a returning finalist. All three are sponsored by Houston Community College.

Luke Nguyen

Luke Nguyen, 12 is in 6th grade and attends Brookside Intermediate School. He excels in math and enjoys gaming. He can also solve the Rubik’s Cube but his favorite is the dodecahedron-shaped Rubik’s Cube. Nguyen is also a musician. He plays both the piano and trombone.

Kirsten Tiffany Santos

Returning finalist Kirsten Tiffany Santos, 12, is in 7th grade and attends International Leadership of Texas in Katy. Santos previously competed in 2022 and tied for 5th place for the national title.

Santos has been in the Gifted and Talented program since the start of her education in kindergarten. She was on the Kelly Clarkson Show back in September of 2022. In her spare time, she plays piano and enjoys writing poetry and music on her piano. When she grows up, she said she wants to be a neurosurgeon.

Ishika Varipilli

Ishika Varipilli, 12 is in the 7th grade at Creekside Park Junior High School in Houston. Varipilli is a returning competitor who back in 2022, tied for 23rd place.

Ishika is trained in Indian classical singing and dancing. She excels in math, science, and Destination Imagination competitions. Her hobbies include time with friends, social media, basketball, watching movies and reading. When she grows up, she said she wants to pursue a career in medicine in the area of pediatrics.