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Mount Vernon girl, with 'alegría,' earns spot in National Spanish Spelling Bee

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Adrian Florez

UPDATE, July 23: Lus Gallardo exited the competition in the 11th round of the National Spanish Spelling Bee in Denver. 

An 11-year-old girl from Mount Vernon is Washington state’s first-ever competitor in the National Spanish Spelling Bee. Lus Gallardo is heading to Denver next month. She’s one of 35 competitors representing 15 states in the event.

“I’ve only gotten on an airplane once,” she said, “so I think that’s going to be fun.”

Gallardo earned her spot in the national contest by winning her classroom bee, and then the schoolwide spelling bee at Madison Elementary.

“Everybody was trying not to win because it’s kind of embarrassing to win,” she said, explaining that people were looking at her while she spelled.

Now, she’s getting ready for Denver – studying up as summer vacation gets underway.

“My mom mostly pushes me to study because she says, ‘Well, you don’t need to win, but you don’t want to be the first one to lose,’” Gallardo said.

The Spanish Spelling Bee is in its ninth year. It was started by a now-retired teacher in New Mexico, David Briseño.

Madison Elementary, where Gallardo just finished fifth grade, is entirely bilingual. All students receive education in both Spanish and English. The program has been around for years, though this is the first year the entire school was taught in both languages – there was an English-only track before.

“Teachers this year brought the idea, ‘Hey, why aren’t we doing a spelling bee in Spanish?” said Principal Juan Gaona. “I said, ‘Well, why aren’t we?’”

Now, they are. Gaona says it’s one more thing that furthers Madison’s bilingual mission.

“We want the students to think in two languages, we want the students to make those connections,” he said. “We want them to be able to see language as language.”

Gallardo won her school spelling be with the word “alegría.” It means “joy,” which is hopefully what she’ll be feeling after her trip to Denver in July.

Listen to longer conversations with both Gallardo and Gaona by playing the audio above.