Visually-impaired 11-year-old to compete at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Visually-impaired spelling bee champ Richelle Zampella

Richelle Zampella is an 11-year-old spelling machine reminder that we all should probably quit our belly aching!

On May 30, the Muskogee, Oklahoma native will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. She’ll join the other 275-odd participants at the Bee but her experience is an extremely unique one. The fifth-grader who in March won the Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee, is legally blind. She’s been learning to read and write in Braille since the tender age of five.

“At the school they teach you you can do anything you want.”

Cindy Lumpkin is one of Richelle’s teachers and she said:

“It may take us a minute to scan a dictionary page and it would probably take her about five to ten minutes. 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 studies two hours a day to prepare for the Bee, which has become a national sensation over the last few years and is now televised on ESPN, but she also likes hanging outside and listening to music, you know, being an 11-year-old.

Local spelling bee promoters are trying to raise money so that her father, Joe, and sister, Katelynn (who is also visually impaired and attends the same school as her sister), can go to D.C. with her. Joe Zampella said that the support that the family has received has been “unbelievably generous.” He told the Muskogee Phoenix:

“It makes you understand that people do care about the children. We always thought every child deserves a chance.”

If you want to help out the Zampellas with their costs to go cheer on Richelle, Tax-deductible contributions may be made by check and sent to the Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee, c/o Armstrong Bank, 2520 Chandler Rd., Muskogee OK 74403.

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  • Piper

    Best wishes young lady!.!.!

  • Amanda

    1. Everyone acts like it’s such a miracle when people with disabilities do normal things. She’s just an 11 year old girl who’s good at spelling not a blind 11 year old. She just so happens to be blind. NOT “visually-impaired”