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Blind girl heading to National Spelling Bee

MUSKOGEE, OK (KJRH) – An Oklahoma fifth grader is heading to Washington to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee later this month.

Richelle Zampella is a typical 11-year-old who loves listening to music and playing with her little sister.

But Richelle, who attends the Oklahoma School for the Blind, has been learning to read and type Braille since she was five.

Her teachers said the youngster may just be the hardest working girl in Spelling Bee.

“It may take us a minute to scan a dictionary page and it would probably take her about five to ten minutes,” said Cindy Lumpkin, one of Richelle’s teachers. “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.”

Richelle said she does not view being blind as an obstacle because “at the school they teach you you can do anything you want.”

And she said that same lesson applies to life. In fact, she thinks everyone can be a good speller if they put in the hard work. For Rochelle, that means studying nearly two hours a day.

Richelle competed with 110 other students in March at the Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee. She went 16 rounds with the reigning 2011 champion and then won with the word stolen. (That yummy German bread.)

When she attends the big bee on May 30, folks across the country, in her hometown, her parents and number one fan, her little five-year-old sister, will certainly be cheering her on.