CANTON  Jackson Township resident Denil Joseph has a passion for geography. He said he’s had it for years starting when his father, Binoy, gave him a map of world capitals when he was in first or second grade.

Denil has taken that passion into competition to win the Geography Bee at St. Michael’s Catholic School for the past three consecutive years. This year’s competition was held at the school on Jan. 17.

He is waiting to hear if he qualifies for the National Geographic Bee at the state level. If he wins at the state bee, he can qualify for the national competition in Washington, D.C, on May 20-23. 

""I memorized the capitals and decided I wanted to know more about the world, my dad also got me an engraved atlas as a Christmas present," Denil said.

He’s competed twice at the state level and finished runner up last year. He missed becoming the champion by one word.

"My final question last year was about the capital of the island that lies north of the Torres Strait. I answered New Guinea but at the last minute I dropped the word new and lost the round because of that word," Denil said.

The National Geographic Society holds the National Geographic Bee for students fourth through eighth grades in thousands of schools across the U.S and five U.S. territories as well as in Department of Defense Dependents Schools around the world. The student who wins first place at the national level receives a $50,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, a subscription to the magazine and an all-expense paid Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos aboard the new National Geographic Endeavor II.

the second place winner receives a $25,000 scholarship and third place takes home a $10,000 scholarship.  

Denil said the competition is much like a spelling bee where a moderator asks each contestant a question about the U.S. and the world.

"I like to compete and show my knowledge of geography and how much I know about the world. Plus, I like competing," he said.

Denil has learned firsthand about some parts of the world when he traveled to Canada, England and India. He said he prepares for each competition by studying different sites on the Internet and he has two big wall maps in the hallway of his house.

"He studies those maps all the time, geography is his passion," His father, Binoy, said. "We used to get up early every morning to study geography and now that’s become his regular routine to get up early to study."

History teacher Norma Jean Fearon said Denil is a great student and she’s happy to see him advance in the competition again this year. She said only 100 kids can compete at state level.

This year’s state geography bee is scheduled for April 6 in Columbus. Denil said this is his last year to be able to compete in the bee and he's hoping to finish first in Columbus.

"I’ve put more work and dedication into my practice this year since it is my last year to compete. It’s a great competition and I’ve enjoyed being involved and would recommend it to other students. I really want to thank my parents and Mrs. Fearon who has worked with me all three years," Denil said.