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Montville - Just because Frankie Ann Marcille is legally blind doesn't mean she can't see the world clearly.
Marcille sees obstacles as opportunities yet to be conquered.
She sees to the needs of others because she has needed help herself.
Marcille, of Mystic, graduated May 18 from St. Bernard School as the class orator. She plans to attend Western Connecticut State University, where her major will be musical theater.
"Musical theater combines my love of dance, singing and acting," Marcille said. "I've been performing for most of my life. If I'm having a bad day, I can take on another character and forget for a while what was upsetting me. It has helped me be more open and accepting of others."
Marcille was born with septo-optic dysplasia disorder, which is characterized by abnormal development of the optic disc. The condition gives her night blindness, tunnel vision and an inability to see objects at a distance.
She is, however, able to see objects that are close to her, and walks around the school without the use of a cane. One wouldn't know she had the visual impairment if she didn't mention it.
"I never thought of it as a handicap," Marcille said. "So what if I have to work a little harder? You can almost do anything if you try really hard. I know there are things that I won't be able to do, like drive a car, and that's OK because I always wanted to live in a city where you can walk around to get to places."
Marcille is involved in numerous schools activities, serving as class vice president and running all four years on the cross-country team.
"I'm not a good runner by any means," Marcille said with a smile. "I've come in last quite a few times. But what is important for me is being a part of a team - not the winning."
It's that positive attitude that makes her stand out.
"She knows herself very well, and that's the greatest thing I can say about her," said John Ayres, who has taught Marcille French for four years and directed her in several school shows.
Ayres said Marcille is a talented student who has worked hard to overcome her challenges.
"She has never asked for more time to take a test," he said. "She's a marvelous kid who has a bright future."
Marcille credits her parents, Frank and Sunshine, for supporting her, especially her artistic endeavors. She has been involved in the arts for most of her life, performing at the Garde Arts Center and Broadway Kids & Company and taking dance lessons at The Dance Extension in New London.
Marcille said she has learned a few tricks to help her perform on stage. Before a performance, she arrives early to get acquainted with the stage. If the stage is particularly dark, she will have someone waiting in the wings to meet her as she exits.
Maggie Dennis, co-artistic director at The Dance Extension, said Marcille's passion for dance was evident from the first day she entered the studio.
"Some kids come into the studio and you can tell this is where they want to be, and it was that way with Frankie," Dennis said. "She works so hard. She doesn't use her vision impairment as an excuse. She just loves to perform."
Marcille said she would love to perform on Broadway, but she is also realistic, and says her dream job would be to teach English and head a drama department at a school.
When Marcille is not performing, she is helping other children with visual impairments. Last summer, she volunteered at a camp for visually impaired children sponsored by the Board of Education and Services for the Blind, held at the Channel 3 Kids Camp in Andover.
Marcille wanted the children to understand that being visually impaired didn't mean that they couldn't pursue their dreams.
Her experience was so positive that she plans to participate in July in a similar camp in Anchorage, Alaska.
"I want them to look at me and say, 'If she can do it, then so can I,'" said Marcille. "Being visually impaired isn't the end. I've had a great life. I could not be any happier."