On May 30, Richelle Zampella, an 11-year-old from Oklahoma, will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.
Nothing out of the ordinary about that, right? She'll only be one of the 275-odd participants at the Bee.
Wrong. Richelle a fifth-grader who in March won the Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee, is legally blind, KJRH reports.
She has been learning to read and write in Braille since she was five.
"It may take us a minute to scan a dictionary page and it would probably take her about five to ten minutes," Cindy Lumpkin, one of Richelle's teachers, told CBS 6-WTVR. "When I had her in kindergarten, by the end of the year she was reading on a second grade level -- in Braille -- and it just takes a lot to learn Braille," she said.
Richelle may have to study two hours a day to prepare for the Bee, but she also likes being outside and listening to music. "I like playing with my sister," she told KJRH. Her 5-year-old sister Katelynn, who is her "number one fan," is also vision-impaired.
According to the Muskogee Phoenix, local spelling bee promoters are trying to raise money so that her father, Joe, and sister, Katelynn, can go to D.C. with her. Joe Zampella said that the support that the family has received has been “unbelievably generous.”
"It makes you understand that people do care about the children," he told the Muskogee Phoenix. “We always thought every child deserves a chance.”
There's no pressure for Richelle to win though. "I know she’ll do her best and that’s what matters," her mother, Sheila Zampella, told Fox 4 Kansas City.