A Shirley student is using spelling as a tool to raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease.

Krista Cusimano, a fifth-grader at William Floyd Elementary School, raised about $3,200 last month through a special spelling test taken by 765 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Krista, 11, said she was inspired by the memory of her grandfather Raul Vosgerichian of Manorville, who died two years ago at 66 after seven years with the disease.

The test, which varied by grade level, had 50 words and participants earned 10 cents for every word spelled correctly through pledges from family and friends. All proceeds went to the Alzheimer's disease Resource Center in Bay Shore.

"I was very surprised, because I didn't think we would raise as much as we did," Krista said. Of her late grandfather, she said: "We love and miss our 'Pa' very much. Doing this in his memory and paying it forward has helped us."

Top spellers from each class vied in a school spelling bee on May 28, the two-year anniversary of Vosgerichian's death.

Krista coordinated the first spelling test as part of her platform in running for Student Council treasurer.

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Her other school activities include playing violin and involvement in soccer, cheerleading and Math Olympiad.