Sweats. Bitten nails. Fast trips to the restroom. All are common side effects from public speaking. Strom Thurmond High School ninth grader Neely Busbee surmounted the public speaking challenge and competed in the Region 2 Poetry Out Loud competition, held at the Richland County Library in Columbia.

Busbee won the STHS Poetry Out Loud contest, a national program designed to challenge high school students to memorize, recite, and emote the meaning behind their selected poems. From STHS, Busbee moved to the regional competition. She recited “The Ocean,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (four stanzas) and “To Helen,” by Edgar Allen Poe (fourteen lines).

Busbee shared that she had never been to the Richland County Library before, and speaking in front of people she had never met in a new place was overwhelming. She commented, “I was very nervous. I had a mental breakdown in the parking lot. It was so nerve wracking, and it was so hot in the room.” Once Busbee began her first poem, she felt it come together. Only at the end did she have a wobble. She said, “I paused at the end and had to regroup.” The second poem went well.

“Some of the competitors were seniors,” Busbee said. “Experience helps, because basically it is about nerves.” She continued, “Competing at Poetry Out Loud is an experience. I don’t like to talk in front of people. It’s a big thing for me. I’m not that kind of person. Now that I’ve gotten a feel for what the competition is like, I think it’s something I probably will try to do again next year.”

In addition to poetry, Busbee also enjoys music. She plays the French horn in the STHS Symphonic Band, the trumpet in the STHS Jazz Band, and is currently practicing the saxophone on her own at home. After high school she would like to pursue a degree in criminal justice, with her sights on one day working as a detective. Pushing out of her comfort zone is something Busbee will benefit from in whatever path she takes in life. Congratulations on competing at the region level!