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Poetic prodigy
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Brittanee Rolle knows how to speak.

Rolle, a senior at Alcovy High School, recently won a district competition in the Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Today she competes in Atlanta in the state competition against students from 41 other Georgia high schools.

While far from shy now, Rolle said she was not always as outgoing as she is today. Involved in theatre at Alcovy, she said being on stage is a rush.

"I feel so powerful up there," Rolle said.

Rolle's English teacher Renee Skaggs mentioned the district competition in class everyday trying to encourage students to participate in the school competition.

She said she didn't plan to compete until watching the film "Akeelah and the Bee," which is about a troubled girl who wins the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

Although nervous before taking the stage, she said her nerves helped her better portray the emotion of the words she was speaking. She said recitation is acting, which she loves to do, but more difficult than playing a character in a play because poems do not include stage directions or emotional cues.

She recited Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" and Edgar Albert Guest's "It Couldn't be Done."

Rolle said she chose the poems because she felt she personally understood the poets' intent in writing them.

"I almost cried when I did it for the school - I don't know why," Rolle said. "Tears were just coming to my eyes and I was trying to hold it back because it was going to sound really bad if I was crying all through it."

Rolle felt sure she wouldn't advance to the district competition, but the four judges at Alcovy chose her. She felt the same way at district competition before she was announced the winner.

She said she hopes the state competition is as intimate a setting as Alcovy and the district competition.

"I like to look at people and see their reactions because I feed off of that," Rolle said.

If she wins the state competition Rolle will receive $300 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. to compete in the national contest.

State winners' schools receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

The national champion will receive a $20,000 college scholarship.

Rolle said she would like to study theatre in college.

"I want to go somewhere in Florida or maybe Valdosta State because it's so close to Florida," Rolle said.

Her ultimate goal is to open a performing arts school, preferably in a more rural area.

"There's a lot of people who have so much talent and who don't have anywhere to show it," Rolle said.

She said for every person who dreams big, 10 people exist to tell them they can't accomplish their dream.

"But you don't know until you try," Rolle said.

She said people have told her she can't dance or act, but she doesn't let it discourage her. This is why she chose to recite Angelo's and Guest's poems.

Guest's "It couldn't be done" ends with the lines "There are thousands to point out to you one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you, but just buckle in with a bit of a grin, just take off your coat and go to it; just start in to sing as you tackle the thing that 'cannot be done,' and you'll do it."