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ODA alumna and concert soloist Rosena Hill performs for high schoolers.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. January 27, 2016
Rosena Hill has performed in productions such as "Come Fly Away" and "The Color Purple."
Rosena Hill has performed in productions such as "Come Fly Away" and "The Color Purple."
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+ Standing O

Aidan Dowdy wasn't prepared for the wake-up call he was about to receive Jan. 20 in the Out-of-Door Academy's Thunderdome.

Within seconds of concert soloist Rosena Hill smiling at Dowdy, a senior at ODA, Hill had him up off the bleachers and dancing with her in the middle of the gym in front of the entire high school student body.

"It definitely woke me up," Dowdy said, laughing. "It was fun, but I'm not a great dancer."

Hill, a former student of ODA's lower school on Siesta Key, visited ODA today to perform a few songs from the Broadway and other productions of which she has been a part throughout her career.

Now a mother of 11-month-old Adabella, Hill sang pieces from "Come Fly Away,""American Songbook" and other productions and compilations.

Although only a few students raised their hands when Hill asked who wanted to pursue music as a career, the high schoolers snapped their fingers and slapped their knees to the beat under Hill's instruction.

"She's amazing — a real inspiration," sophomore Mackenzie Grace said after posing with Hill for a photo. 

Other than posing for selfies, Hill also interacted with the students by answering their questions about her career and her favorite shows.

"'After Midnight' and 'Ragtime' are probably my favorites, but they're all special," Hill said.

She also made a stop at her alma mater in Sarasota, to perform for students there, too.

Hill viewed the day as her way to pay forward the guidance she received as a student, she said.

"When I was growing up, people would come in and talk to us about their occupations," Hill said. "To see and hear what is possible is so special. I'm giving back what those people gave to me."


+Building blocks

McNeal Elementary students aren't just playing with toys.

With their red, blue, green and yellow LEGOs, the children built stations to compete against more than 25 other schools Jan. 23 in the First Lego League competition held in Clearwater.

McNeal students battled in three categories: Core Values, Research Project on recycling and Robot Games.

They built a composting station out of LEGOs and trained robots to pick up plastic bags, demolish buildings and other feats. 

"This group of students realize that they are a team," said Denise Touchberry, engineering teacher and LEGO advisor at McNeal. "They work hard to find solutions and every one of them jumps in to solve problems."

The children had a focus on recycling and chose that topic after noticing that milk cartons aren't being recycled at their school.

McNeal Elementary will move on to the regional competition Feb. 13 in Plant City, where 36 schools from central Florida will compete.  


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