At the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center, Victoria Huggins proudly wore her tiara and Miss North Carolina sash — something that wasn’t easy to get.
While capturing the attention of students with dreams of going to college and being successful, she talked about her journey which involved competing four times.
“No matter what our dream may be, whether we’re 5 or 95, sometimes when things don’t work out the way we supposed to be, it’s not exactly that it’s a no, but rather it’s a not yet,” Huggins said.
During her fifth try, she was finally crowned in 2017 and became the 80th person to hold the title. Huggins was one of several supporters who participated in Sampson County Schools Upward Bound’s “An Evening of Scholars.” The purpose of the first-ever academic banquet held Monday was to celebrate the success of Upward Bound. It helps low-income and first generation students with higher education goal. After graduating from high school, supports continues in college.
“Five years of working towards a goal — kind of like where some of you are right now,” she said. “Some of you are in the eighth grade and you have your goal of going to college. You know it takes work. You know it takes commitment. It takes extracurricular activities to make you stand out from all the rest — just like at Miss North Carolina when they’re 50 beautiful, talented and extraordinary women. What’s going to make you stand out from the pack as the best woman for the job?
“I know that those four no’s led to my yes and I was able to appreciate that yes and live in that moment for such a time as this,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to accomplish some extraordinary things as the 80th Miss North Carolina.”
Huggins went on to say that it was meant for her to be “Lady Eighty” at this moment. While sharing her background of growing up in the small town of St. Pauls, with goals of becoming a journalist, Huggins also encouraged students to pick the right people to have in their lives. For her, her grandfather was her lifeline because of his motivation.
“That’s going to be your lifeline for success,” Huggins said. “Be very careful who you have in your lifeline. There’s people on your lifeline that’s going to increase the blood flow, make you a better person and give you the oxygen that you need. There’s also going to people that if you allow them in your lifeline, they’re going to cutoff your circulation. They’re going to deprive you of the nutrients that you need and take you on a path you shouldn’t be going down.”
Other presenters sharing success stories included Dr. Linda Baldwin, Bladen County’s school and district administrator, and participants in the program. Student presenters and performers included: Rolanda Parker, Leonilla Garcia, Autumn Weeks, Camerionna Whitted, Adia Edwards, Memorie Bullard, Kileigh Faircloth, Jason Sanchez, Valeria Berrones, Jennifer Moreno, Kimberlyn Swinson and Birzayit Sanchez.
KeAusja Chestnutt, a student at Union High School and presenter, enjoyed her time in program.
“Overall, the Upward Bound program has been great and I had experience increasing my communication skills and I had a chance to experience more colleges,” Chestnutt said.
Awards and gifts were presented during the night for Upward Bound, which came to Sampson’ school district during the second half 2017-2018 academic year. Supporters came to the event dressed in their college colors. During the year, the students visited institutions of higher learning and completed community service projects. Some of them included visits to nursing homes and reading events.
Frandricka Faison of Hobbton High School said she learned how to connect and communicate with other people, through Upward Bound. She also appreciates the guidance towards college goals.
“I feel that that the opportunities will come because of the Upward Bound program,” Faison said. “It really helped me learn on how I should prepare for college.”
Marlow Artis, director of Sampson’s Upward Bound, is looking forward to another successful semester. He was assisted by Program Coordinator Lakevia Underwood and Program Assistant Juanita Carr also assisted during the evening.
“We’re so excited to celebrate our students,” Artis said. “We just got started this semester and we’re going to get better and bigger each time. We’re looking forward to visiting more colleges and our summer academy.”
The academy will be held on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Participants will stay on campus for three weeks to learn about college life.
“That’s just the start,” Artis said. “Once we finish our summer academy we got more programming and we’re going to make sure this program is strong for five year.”