By Kathy L. Collins

Who knows the answer to the following question? A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean? Rishi Nair of Seffner does. The 12-year-old rising seventh grade student at Williams Middle Magnet correctly answered this question to become the 2016 National Geographic Geography Bee National Champion. The answer is the Galápagos Islands.

This is the second year that Nair was the Florida State Champion. Nair’s success comes after years of extreme hardwork. He spent four to five hours during weekdays and up to 10 hours on the weekend studying geography. He has not celebrated his birthday for the past two years because it was close to the Florida State Geography Bee.

Nair credits both his hard work and the support of his parents for his success. Nair explained how he does it.

“First you learn the basics like the oceans, continents, countries of each continent, capitals, major cities, currencies, rivers, mountain peaks and lakes of each country in the world. Then you should know the history of the countries, the form of government, language and culture. You also have an awareness of current events and the economy of the countries,” Nair said. “After all of that, you have to be able to apply your geographical knowledge to real world situations.”

The National Geography Bee is open to thousands of students in fourth through eighth grade. The preliminary rounds of the state champions was held in May and the 10 finalists competed that same month at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Nair first became interested in geography in the first grade. His favorite subjects in school are math and world history. Someday Nair hopes to be a National Geographic Explorer.

For winning the 2016 National Geographic Geography Bee, Nair received a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in National Geographic Society and a Lindbald Expeditions- eight day adventure to Southeastern Alaska aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion including a stop at Glacier Bay National Park in recognition to the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

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