During the past months, the city of Sunland Park has been in the spotlight because of its political and legal scandals.
Now once again this border city is giving people something to talk about. But this time, it's in a positive way. A student from a local school won the National Spanish Spelling Bee.
She is Judith Villa, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Sunland Park Elementary.
Judith tied for first with an eighth-grade student from Rio Rancho Middle School in Rio Rancho, N.M. The contest took place July 21 at the National Center of Hispanic Culture in Albuquerque.
After she and the other finalist spelled 260 words in 53 rounds, the judges declared both students deserving of the top spot.
"I studied a lot for the contest, and I always thought I could make it," Judith said. "I practiced 16,000 words, and even though some of them were so hard such as 'otorrinolaringologo' (otorhinolaryngologist), I managed to do it thanks to my parents' and teachers' help. Now, I am very happy."
Judith had succeeded at other local and state Spelling Bees. She is also an honor student.
Her classmates were so happy about Judith's accomplishment that they decorated in her honor. The school's marquee proudly announced her feat.
"We are very proud of Judith's achievement," said Jose Reyes, a bilingual educator for the Gadsden Independent School District. "She is an outstanding student and she has a special talent for spelling. These
kinds of contests help us celebrate our cultural diversity and emphasize the importance of bilingual education."
The student's tutor for the contest, Jorge Luis Olivas, said Judith did not just memorize words.ĘShe also studied their etymological roots and grammar.
"She spent a lot of hours preparing herself, so I'm so glad she won," he said. "Our ultimate goal is that children can succeed both in English and Spanish."
Susana Villa, Judith's mother, works at the school's computer lab and said her daughter spent several months preparing. She and her husband helped Judith review words on the study guide.
"After school, she did her homework first, then she practiced the words," Susana Villa said. "She studied five or six times the words that she spelled wrong."
On Aug. 17, a family from Sunland Park gave Judith a present and told her they appreciated what she had done for the community.
"It was very nice and the message was that we can accomplish everything we want through our effort and dedication," said Susana Villa. "We are doing our part so a new generation of Sunland Park residents can help the community to succeed."
Judith will automatically participate in next year's contest. She said she is ready to win again.
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