Triad Cultural Arts is hosting a Juneteenth cultural and theatrical pageant for high school girls in Forsyth County Friday, June 17.

Thirteen juniors will perform in the pageant in hopes of being named Queen Juneteenth and winning a four-year scholarship to a historically Black college or university. 

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board Member Shai Woodbury was involved in the creation of this program. She said she wanted to get more young people involved in Juneteenth activities, but also support high school girls as they prepare to attend an HBCU.

“We felt like it was very necessary for the contestant to be assured that we will support them in college, based on the HBCU legacy and what it brings to this nation as an option to be educated,” Woodbury said. 

The scholarship will be funded through a partnership between the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and the United Negro College Fund. Woodbury said many of the girls have already expressed interest in attending an HBCU, like Howard University where Vice President Kamala Harris went to school.

To get the girls ready for that experience, Woodbury said the Queen Juneteenth program offered more than just the prize of financial support. 

“Once the thirteen were identified, they were expected to participate in workshops,” she said. “And this is where they would, of course, get professional development and just kind of character development along the lines of preparing to go to college, specifically an HBCU.”

They participated in sessions about managing finances, leadership, etiquette, style, self-confidence, socio-emotional needs, and the history of Black women's contributions in the area. 

Throughout this process, the participants also received mentorship from 14 Black women serving on the "Queen's Council." The council is made up of educators, philanthropists, business owners, elected officials and other women who are committed to serving their community.

Woodbury said she didn't have access to many of the women she looked up to in the community as a high school student. 

“It took me going to college, coming back, being a grown adult before I would meet them and be able to capitalize off their knowledge and expertise,” Woodbury said. “And so as juniors in high school, the girls are very grateful for the opportunity to be able to connect with us.”

In addition to the network with the Queen's Council, she said the girls participating in the program have built strong friendships with each other. 

“We have built a sisterhood of these young women,” Woodbury said. “I know every last one of them wants to be Queen Juneteenth, but whomever is chosen, I 100% guarantee there will be praise and love given to who is selected by the other contestants.”

The pageant will be held at Paisley IB Magnet School located at 1394 Thurmond St. at 7 p.m. on June 17. More information about the event can be found on the Triad Cultural Arts website.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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