WASHINGTON, D.C. (TNN) - McNiel Middle School student Helen Li is in Washington D.C. to compete in The 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
She is one of 562 from across the nation who are showing off their spelling skills with hopes of becoming the national champion speller.
Helen is advancing to Wednesday's round, but the journey has been months in the making.
"Helen is one of those kids when you meet her you just immediately know something is different about her," said McNiel Middle School teacher Missy McCartney.
The 8th grader took the top spot in the NewsChannel 6 Regional Spelling Bee, and is now representing Texoma on the national level.
"She is so smart, she is so kind, She's so eloquent and has this determination about her.
It's a quite determination but if she says she wants to be president, you would believe her because she works that hard for everything she has," said McCartney.
Since winning the News Channel 6 spelling bee in March, she hasn't taken much of a break.
"After I won the regional bee I have to admit I was kind of loose like the day after I don't have to study, but then after a few days I was like I have to really have to get down to this because there is so much material you have to cover," said Helen Li.
While she was given a list of 600 words for one of the rounds to study, the real key is learning to stay calm.
and that’s where Helen’s trademark spelling on her hand comes into play.
"She didn't start doing it at first, but a little bit later she picked it up. It really has worked for her. I think it helps her to visualize but also to help slow her down. That's one of the most common mistakes kids make at the spelling bee is that they get nervous and start talking fast and something misspell words they know. And that's kind of helped her slow down a little bit. It's a strategy that really has worked for her," said McCartney
"It's been just so hard balancing everything especially in this last month with finals and STAAR test that you always make sure you make good grades. It just balancing your time which is the hardest thing," said Helen Li.
The final round is Thursday.
The winner will not only have bragging rights, but also a cash prize of 50,000, a trip to New York City to appear on Live with Kelly and Ryan, and a trip to Hollywood to go on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show.