Evynn Richardson of Hollister was recently named Distinguished Young Woman of the Roanoke Valley 2021, receiving more than $4,000 in scholarship funding toward higher education.
According to its website, the area competition is part of a national scholarship program that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent in young women.
Richardson, daughter of LaDonna Richardson and Garland Richardson, is a rising senior at Warren New Tech High School.
She is a member of the Red Earth Youth Council, which includes members of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe ages 13-18 and focuses on a number of service activities.
Richardson also co-chairs the North Carolina Native American Youth Organization, which focuses on encouraging Native American youth to pursue higher education and plans conferences at colleges and universities to introduce young people to resources available to help them achieve their goals.
Richardson said that participation in the scholarship competition is open to young women who are high school juniors.
The competition, which was held in June this year, included the categories of academics, fitness, talent and interview. Richardson drew inspiration from her tribe, the Haliwa-Saponi, for the event. She discussed the tribe during the interview, and presented the traditional dance of Escanye, also known as the Women’s Shuffle Dance, in the talent portion of the competition.
“I wanted to honor the women of the community and the women who supported me,” Richardson said.
In addition to winning the overall competition, she also won the categories of Spirit Award-selected by fellow participants, academics, fitness, overall interview, and self-expression.
Richardson said that she entered the competition to broaden her horizons and connections, and to enhance her public speaking skills.
“I was really shocked,” she said about being named Distinguished Young Woman of the Roanoke Valley 2021.
In being named, she follows in the footsteps of her mother, who won the competition when it was known as Junior Miss, and the Spirit Award.
By winning the award, Richardson hopes that she will serve as an inspiration to other Native American youth.
“Seeing Native people win something like this shows that we are finally making our mark, making a difference,” she said. “This is not always seen.”
By winning the Roanoke Valley event, Richardson advances to state competition in January. There, she plans to present a traditional hoop dance for her talent as well as a new fitness routine.
As she prepares for state competition, Richardson remains busy with other activities as well. She was commissioned to complete a piece for the 2020 UNITY Virtual Conference for Native American youth, which highlights rising artists. Her piece was selected for the T-shirt design for the conference.
Richardson also looks forward to her senior year at Warren New Tech. She is considering several universities including N.C. State, UNC-Greensboro and the UNC School of the Arts for her higher education.
Richardson hopes to continue working in the nonprofit sector, and dreams of a career in filmmaking.
“There is not a lot of Native American representation in films,” she said. “I want to change that.”