Richelle Zampella: 12-year-old blind student from Muskogee returns to Scripps National Spelling Bee

For months the Zampella household has had a lot to say while practicing for the spelling bee. Words like esquamulose and succedaneum. Even if most of us don't know what the words mean, after listening to the Zampella's long enough, you soon learn it's the language of the spelling bee preparations.

Twelve-year-old Richelle Zampella and her mom practice often.

"My mom and dad got words and made lists and then I wrote them down so I could study them," said Richelle.

Her mom always knew her daughter had something special.

"She wanted to know what words meant so I was constantly pulling out a dictionary," she said.

For Richelle each word, each letter in her dictionary, takes up more space, that's because it's in braille.

While she may be blind, she isn't letting anything get in her way.

"It's not a difficulty at all, I don't think. Some people might think that, but I dot think so."

We first met Richelle last year at her school. She was getting ready for her first national spelling bee. Now she's giving it a second go.

"I'm a lot less nervous this time," she said.

There's one word that the Zampella house speaks the loudest: Perseverance.

FULL COVERAGE of the 2013 Scripps Spelling Bee (

Print this article Back to Top