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Around Town: Local students compete in spelling bees; State awards $17.3M grant for new levee

Tidbits on people, events and other happenings in and around Palo Alto

In the latest Around Town column, read about two Palo Alto students who competed at state and national spelling bees and a grant awarded to East Palo Alto to further flood-protection efforts.

SPELLING BEE BUZZ ... Palo Alto was represented at recent state and national spelling bee competitions through two students one who became the last man standing and another who was just shy of making the top 50. Sixth-grader Vayun Krishna of Challenger School - Middlefield survived 11 rounds to become this year's winner of the California State Elementary Spelling Bee held on May 11. He surpassed about 55 competitors in fourth through sixth grades by correctly spelling "rapport." He walked away with a $250 gift card to Barnes & Noble in addition to an Amazon Kindle Fire and spelling bee backpack. He will be recognized by the Santa Clara County Board of Education at its June 19 meeting. Newly minted Greene Middle School graduate Rohan Phanse also vied for first place at last week's Scripps National Spelling Bee held in National Harbor, Maryland near Washington, D.C. He joined 22 other contestants from the Bay Area who participated in the annual competition. He made it to the third round, correctly spelling "emendation," meaning "the process of making a revision or correction to a text," according to Oxford Dictionaries. Rohan's winning streak ended on Wednesday, May 29, when he tied for 51st place out of 567 spellers, just missing the cutoff to qualify for the semifinals. However, the experience was a positive one, Rohan told NBC. "I'm having fun. I'm learning a lot from other spellers, and I think one thing that's recurring is everybody is really nice, they're really supportive." When his head's not buried in a dictionary, Rohan is in many ways like any other 14-year-old. He is learning "Stairway to Heaven" on his electric guitar, makes stop-motion videos with Legos and hosts his own YouTube channel, Roar Films.

MONEY STREAMS IN ... East Palo Alto received a $17.3 million grant from the California Office of Emergency Services to build a levee system aimed to prevent flooding from the San Francisco Bay and San Francisquito Creek, the city announced Tuesday. The project is estimated to take three years to complete, and will protect about 1,500 houses, businesses, schools, churches and other buildings that are located in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) floodplain map. The city will collaborate with the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, among others, to complete the levee. More than half of East Palo Alto's land is located in the FEMA floodplain, putting residents at a greater risk of being impacted by environmental factors including heavy rain and rising sea levels. Projects to address the escalating risk have been in the works for years now, and include plans that will benefit both the local community and wildlife at the Baylands.

Related content:

• Officials unveil first phase of San Francisquito Creek flood protection

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