MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Lus Gallardo is the best speller in her school. It just so happens she does it in Spanish.
Gallardo won the Spanish spelling bee at Mount Vernon's Madison Elementary School this year and is now on her way to the U.S. national championships.
She is the first student ever from the state of Washington to compete.
"I feel like I'm a little better in English, actually," said the soft-spoken fifth-grader and daughter of Mexican immigrants. "I want to be an example to other kids to encourage them to learn a second language."
Gallardo is leading by example in a school that is itself exemplary.
Madison is one of the few fully bilingual schools in Washington. Everything is done in both Spanish and English the minute you walk through the door as a kindergartner. Students spend half of their days learning in Spanish, the other in English.
Families apply to get in.
Principal Juan Gaona says knowing how to speak a second language is a gift for all students.
About 50 percent of the school's 540 students speak English as their first language.
"Students are learning teamwork, they're learning how to stay focused and to follow expectations," Gaona said. "To compete in the world these days knowing a second language, any second language, is very important."
The winning word for Gallardo was alegri'a which means "happiness."
It's a fitting word, as the 11-year-old is now preparing to compete against kids from about 200 schools in the National Spanish Spelling Bee this July in Denver.
"I can't believe I'm going to Colorado," she said. "It's so exciting!"
The school's PTO is helping pay for the family's travel expenses. They've set up a GoFundMe account for anyone who would like to donate to the cost of the trip. Click here for the account.