EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The cameras and bright lights will do little to rattle Arnav Tonde when he travels to Washington, D.C., to compete in this year’s National Spelling Bee.

It took him a few tries, but the Wiggs Middle School eighth-grader finally earned a spot in this week’s competition by correctly spelling “diatom” to win the Regional Spelling Bee in March.

With several Spelling Bee appearances under his belt locally, Tonde said he’s more confident when he gets on stage.

“I lost all of my stage fright,” he said. “I also feel like I’ve gotten a better understanding of how to keep yourself calm in, like, scary situations, or, like, how to push yourself out of your comfort zone and not freak out.”

Arnav Tonde

The 95th Scripps National Spelling Bee begins with a full day of preliminaries on Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, right along the Potomac River in National Harbor, Maryland.

The quarterfinals and semifinals are on Wednesday, and the finals will take place Thursday evening, a two-hour event that will be televised nationally on ION.

However, Tonde and his family will spend the entire “Bee Week” in the nation’s capital, where participants have several events planned outside the competition.

On Friday, the faculty and staff at Wiggs Middle School recognized Tonde for his achievement and even presented him with a gift card for his trip.

Tonde plays the violin and had just performed with the school orchestra before he was brought back on stage as his classmates cheered him on and held signs wishing him luck.

“It’s really exciting and I’m really proud to honor my school that has supported me throughout my three years here,” Tonde said.

This trip will be his final opportunity to compete in the National Spelling since he will move on to high school next year, but he has a message for future spellers: “Work hard. Study hard. But also learn to enjoy the experience.

“Make sure to not put yourself in a situation where you feel like you’re getting burnt out, or, like, you just don’t have the will to study anymore,” he said. “Because you really need to study, and it’s really important that you enjoy the experience overall because if you don’t like what you’re doing, then you’re not going to do well.”

Students, faculty and staff wish good luck to Arnav Tonde, third from left, an eighth-grader from Wiggs Middle School who will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from June 31-June 2 outside Washington, D.C.

Aside from spelling and playing the violin, Tonde has many other hobbies, including reading, playing tennis and badminton and playing with his little sister, Anaya.

He also enjoys volunteering and has lent his time to organizations like GiGi’s Playhouse, which aids people with mental disabilities. He is also a member of the school’s National Junior Honor Society chapter, which does work dedicated to helping the community.

This week, however, Tonde is focused on the Spelling Bee and enjoying his time in Washington. He and his family arrived on Sunday.

“I’m really just happy and excited to get to go to the nationals,” he said. “I feel like the friendships I make over there will last me a lifetime, and I feel like this experience will really help me grow as a person.”

The Spelling Bee is being streamed live at spellingbee.com.

The quarterfinals will be streamed live from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday on ION Plus. The semifinals on Wednesday and finals on Thursday will be broadcast live from 8-10 p.m. ET on the ION network:

  • DirecTV: Channel 305
  • Spectrum: Channel 19 and 125.
  • Over the air: Channel 46.4.