York student in class of her own with Angelou's poetry

YORK -- A'Derrica Roseboro likes strong, bold poetry.

She loves "Still I Rise," by Maya Angelou.

"It's a powerful poem," said the York Comprehensive High 10th-grader.

When she recites it for competition, Roseboro makes listeners love it, too.

On Saturday, Roseboro won a statewide Poetry Out Loud competition in Columbia sponsored by the South Carolina Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. She won $200 and a trip to Washington, D.C., on April 28 to compete in the nationals.

"I knew she was going to win before she got up there," said Roseboro's mother, Eleanor Thrower.

It was her mother's instinct, she said.

"It brought tears to my eyes just seeing her up there -- seeing her so bold," Thrower said, adding that when Roseboro recites a poem it's clear she's speaking from the heart.

Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest that combines aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class. The program began in 2005 and helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage, according to the program's Web site, www.poetryoutloud.org.

Roseboro's journey to the stage started in speech class. She memorized two poems before competing against others in the school's Little Theater. After winning the school competition, she advanced to the Feb. 9 regional contest in Spartanburg where she finished ahead of eight other hopefuls.

Roseboro said she always has had a good memory. She's been in several plays, so learning the poems wasn't difficult, she said.

She practiced for her family and teachers while preparing for the competition, and they offered pointers.

"You get judged on your position on stage, your voices and how articulate you are ...," she said. "I kind of get nervous (at first), but once I'm on stage I just give it my all."

While only a sophomore, Roseboro hasn't been hindered competing against older students, said Marian Garner, the YCHS English teacher who organized the school's competition.

"She's very young, but she has stage presence," Garner said. "I think that has really pushed her over the edge as far as the rest of the competition goes. When she's on the stage she commands attention."

Garner also commended Roseboro's choice of poetry.

"I think she was able to make the poems her own and really sell the poem to the audience," Garner said.

Roseboro is the first YCHS student to win the state competition, although Cara Shaw was first runner-up last year, Garner said.

"I think it's a wonderful program that appeals to students from all ability levels from all different walks of life," Garner said. "This program is set up so the students have a lot of input into what they can do, and I think they see the value of poetry and the spoken word when they participate."

York Comprehensive High School will receive $500 to purchase poetry books because of Roseboro's state win.

A $20,000 scholarship prize will be awarded to the Poetry Out Loud national champion.