Where in the world? Mt Laurel student headed to National Geographic Bee

Mt Laurel Elementary School fifth grader Nathan will represent Alabama in the National Geographic Bee Championship on May 11-13 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. (For the Reporter/Dawn Harrison)

Mt Laurel Elementary School fifth grader Nathan will represent Alabama in the National Geographic Bee Championship on May 11-13 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. (For the Reporter/Emily Connell)

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

MT LAUREL – Mt Laurel Elementary School fifth grader Kapil Nathan wants to be a doctor and deliver medical care to people around the world when he grows up.

For now, though, Nathan is satisfied to be working toward a different goal: Becoming the next National Geographic Bee champion.

Nathan, 10, won the State Geographic Bee on March 27 at Samford University.

This year marked his second time to compete at the state level, after winning his school’s first Geography Bee in February.

“This was a really good start,” Nathan said.

Nathan will represent Alabama in the National Geographic Bee Championship on May 11-13 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I just want to do good. It’s going to be tough.”

Nathan said he is a bit nervous, but hopes “to make it past the first round and make it as far as I can in the Bee.”

“We’ve been studying ever since after I took the qualifying test for state, so it’s been a long time,” Nathan said.

The question he answered correctly to win the state competition was “Which country includes the islands of Melville, Mornington and Bathurst?”

After saying “Australia,” Nathan, who was one of 102 competitors, became the state champion.

In addition to his ticket to the national competition, he received $100, the “National Geographic Atlas of the World, 10th Edition” and a medal.

“He’s an outstanding student,” MLES teacher Sam Scott said of Nathan. “He’s a great asset to the school. It really puts Shelby County on the map for geography.”

Nathan is the son of Archana Subramanian and Vaidyanathan Sahasranaman Venganullur.

Nathan said visiting his grandparents in India and seeing other countries kindled his interest in geography.

“It’s exciting to know about different cultures and different people,” he said. “It can just help you a lot. Even if I go someplace, I know the basic facts about the country.”

Nathan said he studies geography for at least two hours a day, sometimes with the assistance of his 5-year-old brother, Krish.

“My little brother helps me a lot,” Nathan said, adding he hopes Krish will follow in his footsteps as a geography whiz. “I’m going to help him, too.”

When he isn’t poring over his study books, Nathan enjoys playing with Krish and their neighborhood friends, playing the piano and saxophone, and playing chess.

He has won the Alabama State Scholastic Chess Championship twice and placed fourth in a recent state championship.

Nathan will join contestants from all 50 states, along with Guam, Simoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands at the National Geographic Bee in May.

“I like his chances,” Scott said.

For Scott, the effort he put forth in forming the MLES Geography Bee was a small sacrifice compared to seeing Nathan’s success and knowing more students could use the school’s Bee as a stepping-stone to statewide and national recognition.

“The kids are really excited about next year,” Scott said. “Kapil has really set the bar. It’s a major accomplishment not only for Kapil, but for the school as well.”