Cara Busheme, Christa McAuliffe student, in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Cara Busheme carries a spiral notebook where she jots down any new words she doesn't know how to spell. That notebook – and a lucky penny she holds in her pocket – has taken her far.

Today, the 13-year-old Christa McAuliffe Middle School student, will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, outside Washington. She is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of West Palm Beach.

Cara is something of a Renaissance kid. She loves art – playing flute, painting and making jewelry. She thrives outside, especially at rock and tree climbing, kayaking and SCUBA diving. She excels not only at reading and language, but she loves science, too. Cara hopes to become a neuroscientist.

Cara earned her place at the bee by spelling a word whose meaning is almost as complex as its spelling. The word was eigenvalue, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a scalar associated with a given linear transformation of a vector space and having the property that there is some nonzero vector which when multiplied by the scalar is equal to the vector obtained by letting the transformation operate on the vector."

Cara defeated 24 other students at the regional bee.

At her Boynton Beach school, Cara is treasurer of the Animal Rescue Club. She has two adopted dogs, Benny and Dakota.

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