MUSKOGEE - In the Zampella house, spelling is a family affair.
Richelle Zampella, 12, is headed to her second Scripps National Spelling Bee this week and says she has been preparing for months.
But that weight has not solely been on this sixth-grader’s shoulders. Her family has been with her every step of the way.
The Saturday before the family was off to Washington D.C. for the bee, Sheila Zampella, Richelle’s mother, was quizzing her on a few words.
“To be going again is really exciting because that was the goal,” Sheila said.
Richelle has been studying for about three hours a day to prepare, and the family typically helps out. That is if they can actually pronounce the words she has to spell.
That afternoon, Sheila was figuring out the pronunciation of breviloquence, which is a brief and pertinent mode of speaking.
Her parents are a constant reminder of her strengths.
“Mom got a new system of getting words… it made it a lot quicker,” Richelle said.
And they help her to overcome her weaknesses. Richelle is legally blind, but she says she doesn’t see that as an obstacle.
“It’s not really a difficulty at all. Some people might think that, but I don’t think so,” she said.”
The Scripps National Spelling Bee consists of four rounds. The first three rounds test every participant. The top 50 with the highest scores from those three rounds combined, move on to the televised spelling match.
FULL COVERAGE of the 2013 Scripps Spelling Bee (http://bit.ly/2013spellingbee)
At last year’s competition, Richelle did not advance to the fourth round.
“I was very nervous last time because there were so many other people there that were competing, and I didn’t know how well I’d do.”
Richelle admits she was disappointed, but she came back home and began preparing for 2013. At the end of March, she won the Eastern Oklahoma spelling bee to once again compete on the national level.
This year’s competition does include a new twist for Richelle and other contestants. The 2013 bee will include a vocabulary component for the first time ever.
“So instead of doing 50 words on round 1, you do half vocabulary and half spelling,” Richelle said. “I have 1,500 words to study.”
But with the help of her parents and her spelling coach, Bridgett Weaver, Richelle believes she is ready for anything. She said she finished studying vocabulary a week ago.
“It has always been a strength for her,” Sheila said. “She has always liked learning the words and what they mean,”
The Muskogee student has been competing in spelling bees since she was in first grade, ironically, the same grade her younger sister, Caitlyn, is currently in. And Richelle’s talent must be genetic, because now, Caitlyn has goals of competing in the National Spelling Bee someday.
But for now, Caitlyn will stand with her mom and dad and cheer her sister on in D.C.
“It means a lot because I love doing things with my family, and we can have fun doing this,” Richelle said. “I am glad we are all getting to go.”
And Richelle said she will study up until the last minute to ensure she is prepared to reach her goal.
“We have always tried to encourage her to do her best and be her best, and that is all we have ever expected of her,” Sheila said. “And it has always paid off for her. We are really proud of her.”
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