Muskogee girl gets to 3rd round in national spelling bee
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, June 01, 2012
6/01/12 at 4:42 AM
Richelle Zampella typically makes short work of schoolwork.
"You can't give her stuff fast enough," said Cindy Lumpkin, a teacher at the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee. "She does everything in Braille. If she feels it, she remembers it."
Richelle, who has been blind since birth, was feeling it this week.
The 11-year-old from Muskogee was among 278 competitors in the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C.
Noah Cassidy, a 13-year-old home-schooled student from Perkins, was the only other Oklahoman to participate. He made it to Thursday's semifinal round of 50.
Richelle, who just finished the fifth grade, spelled "oakenshaw" and "symmetrical" correctly on Wednesday before she was eliminated.
"She just handled everything great," Lumpkin said. "I was proud of her."
About a quarter of the bee's competitors have participated in the event previously.
"This was her first time," Lumpkin said. "A lot of those who make the top 50 had been there before. That's an advantage."
An A student and Student of the Year at her school the past two years, Richelle has won first place in the Braille test competition for four semesters and has been a national finalist in the Braille Institute's Braille Challenge.
She studied about 2,000 words a day to prepare for the National Spelling Bee, she said.
"It was a lot of fun because I love spelling," Richelle said of her experience on the national stage. "When you're a good speller, it's not very hard."
Richelle has Leber congenital amaurosis, an eye disorder that primarily affects the retina, said her mother, Sheila Zampella.
"She definitely has not let it hold her back," she said.
Cheering on Richelle this week besides her mother were her father, Joey Zampella, and her sister, 5-year-old Katelynn. A tour of Washington awaits the family on Friday before they return home Saturday evening.
"We're really looking forward to dressing up and looking our best and being around the families and the spellers," Sheila Zampella said.
Nine spellers made the final round Thursday, and the last speller standing was Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, who won with the word "guetapens," meaning an ambush.
Original Print Headline: Muskogee girl gets to 3rd round in U.S. bee
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Richelle Zampella: The graduated fifth-grade student prepared for the National Spelling Bee by studying about 2,000 words a day. She was among a total of 278 competitors from age 6 to 14 taking part in the competition. She has also been a national finalist in the Braille Institute's Braille Challenge