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Nile Garden 8th grader county spelling champ
Leonor Borges will represent the Manteca Unified School District at the California State Spelling Bee in San Rafael in May. Borges won both the Manteca Unified and the San Joaquin County spelling bees to qualify. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Leonor Borges sort of expected to represent Nile Garden when the school spelling bee rolled around.

She first tried her luck with the spelling bee when she was in fifth grade. Borges managed to represent the school as both a sixth and seventh grader. That boosted her confidence when she sat down this year to prepare with a list of words.

But she had no idea that she would go on to eventually win not only the Manteca Unified spelling title, but take the title for San Joaquin County – a feat she achieved on Dec. 9.

“English is one of my favorite classes, and I love to read so spelling just goes along with that,” Borges said of why she entered. “It’s a challenge and it gives you something to work on.”

The soft-spoken Borges will get a chance on a much bigger stage in May when she represents the County Office of Education in the California State Junior High Spelling Bee in San Rafael.
But don’t expect to hear her boasting about her accomplishment, or even find her cramming the dictionary as the end of the school year approaches.

“They give you a list of words that may be used, and I just kind of go off of that and look for the words that I don’t already know, and when I have some spare time I’ll work on learning it,” she said. “I usually work with my mom on the words, but she’s from Portugal and so sometimes it’s kind of hard with some of them.”

Born on the island of Terceira in the Portuguese Azores, Borges can usually be found at home with an adventure book in her hand. She favors the Harry Potter series and anything else that focuses on things that are “out of the ordinary.”

While it’s still too early to think about college plans, Borges – a regular straight “A” student – is focusing her sights on eventually becoming a lawyer and enjoys sharpening her debate skills in an elective class in her spare time.

“I just like arguing against people in general,” she said. “Hopefully it’s something that I can keep on doing even after I’m done with school.”