Porterville resident and Sequoia Middle School student Sameera Hussain knows a thing or two about words.
The 12-year-old Hussain is the only person to win the Tulare County Spelling Bee twice, and from May 24 to 26, she will be in National Harbor, Md., to represent Tulare County in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee after also competing last year.
For around two hours each day, the seventh-grader prepares for the upcoming competition, where she will compete against 285 other students for the title of National Spelling Bee Champion.
“What I do is I’ll look up the word on the Internet and I’ll look at the pronunciation so I can get it stuck in my head,” Hussain said. “When I see things – it’s not like a photographic memory, but it’s basically there – it just sticks.”
After that Hussain writes a list of words with definitions and has her aunt or uncle quiz her on them.
But even with a 4.0 GPA and two county titles to her name, the lifelong Porterville resident is like any other girl.
“I love to hang out with my friends, spend time with my family and shop – a lot,” she said. When she has the time, she loves to watch reruns of the television show “Hannah Montana.”
“She’s a straight-A student,” said counselor Robert Steigleder. “In fact, she’s pretty much top of every class she has.”
In addition to her success in academics, Hussain is well-rounded, Steigleder said. “She’s well-liked by her peers and very popular.”
After completing her education, Hussain aspires to be a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“I’m fascinated by the nervous system and I just want to work with kids,” she said. “I want to make a difference in kids’ lives because that’s the most rewarding to me.”
Hussain has been competing in spelling bees ever since her first- and second-grade teacher saw her potential.
“She saw my capacity for learning and she knew that I would be great at spelling,” Hussain said. “So she started giving me advanced work. She’d give me fourth- or fifth-grade work when I was in first grade.”
This week Hussain will be the first Porterville student to make back-to-back appearances at the national spelling bee. She is sponsored in the national contest by the Visalia Times-Delta.