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May 30, 2013

Speller who practices in Braille takes second turn at national bee

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Richelle Zampella nailed two words - "capricious" and "trianon" - in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday. But the fifth-grader from the Oklahoma School for the Blind wasn't among 42 spellers advancing to the semifinals, held back by her scores on a computer test, which she took in Braille.

"Usually they take 50 semifinalists," said Cindy Lumpkin, the Oklahoma school's spelling bee coordinator. However, many contestants registered the same score on the computer test, said Lumpkin. Three had perfect scores.

"Our goal was to get in the top 50," she said, adding that Zampella, 12, was "kind of upset" with the result.

Zampella, who is visually impaired, uses Braille to practice her words and earlier this spring won a statewide competition for Braille proficiency.

She earned her trip to the National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington, D.C. - for the second year in a row - at the Eastern Oklahoma Spelling Bee in late March. There she bested more than 120 other contestants by correctly spelling lithe, phenomenon, echt, mozzarella, pernicious, surveillance, soliloquy, rendezvous and mnemonic.

Her mother noted she had been practicing for most of the past year.

“It’s just wonderful and exciting that, regardless of what disabilities you have or your lot in life, perseverance pays off,” said Carolyn Sheppard, principal of the Oklahoma School for the Blind, at the state bee.


Details for this story were reported by the Muskogee, Okla., Phoenix.

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