Blind Student to Compete in National Spelling Bee

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MUSKOGEE, Okla. -- A fifth grader from Oklahoma is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington. Unlike most of her competitors, Richelle Zampella
is blind.

The 11-year-old attends the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee. She's been learning to read and type braille since the age of five.

"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," said Zampella's teacher, Cindy Lumpkin.

In March, the fifth grader competed with 100 students at the Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee. She won after 16 rounds with the reigning 2011 champ. The winning word was stollen which is a German bread.

Zampella says being blind doesn't stop her from reaching her goals.

"At the school they teach you you can do anything you want," she said.

The fifth-grader feels like anyone can be a good speller if they try and that it's not a special gift. She spends two hours a day studying. The town of Muskogee will be watching and cheering on May 30th as she takes the big stage.

"I know she'll do her best and that's what matters," said Richelle's mom, Sheila Zampella.

Her number one fan and five-year-old sister Katelynn will also be excited for her big sister take the stage. She hopes follow in her sister's footsteps.

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