Gifted young women have been performing in Hal Jackson's Talented Teens International Scholarship Competition for 30 years, but an Ohio contestant has never captured the win.
Lauren Collins could be the one.
Lauren, 14, of Toledo, will compete this weekend in New York against teens from all over the country. She is Ohio's representative. Several contestants hail from other nations, including Bermuda and Jamaica.
Winners will be announced on Saturday night. The competition includes a talent performance, a biographical speech, and an evening gown round.
“I'm nervous, but I have confidence that I can bring home this title,” Lauren said.
The director of Ohio's talented teen program, Iva Brassfield-Farrow, chose Lauren to represent the state this year. Ms. Brassfield-Farrow, a former Miss Talented Teen Ohio, heard about Lauren's dancing ability through a friend of her family. She said that when she met Lauren, she knew she had a potential winner.
“She caught my eye. She has a real youthful appearance and she's talented, so she fit right in,” Ms. Brassfield-Farrow said. “We're looking to put Ohio on the map this year.”
Lauren, who will be a sophomore this fall at St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, has been studying dance for more than 10 years. She takes classes in tap, jazz, and ballet dance at the Catz Dance Academy in Maumee. This weekend, she will strap on her tap shoes for the talent competition.
As a junior varsity cheerleader, Lauren knows how to shine in front of an audience. She also participates in her school's African-American club and belongs to the Xinos and Kudos youth group, run by the national educational sorority of Phi Delta Kappa.
Lauren said she hopes to become a pediatrician or open a dance studio with her older sister, who is majoring in dance at the University of Iowa.
Winning the talented teen competition could put Lauren thousands of dollars closer to her aspirations. The winner will receive a $5,000 college scholarship, as well as the opportunity to travel all over the globe. Destinations would include Europe, the Caribbean, and South Africa, Ms. Brassfield-Farrow said.
“I've always wanted to travel, especially to France,” Lauren said.
The scholarship competition is organized by Hal Jackson, the first black announcer in network radio. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame is 1995 and has received numerous honors throughout his career in radio and television.
Hal Jackson's international scholarship competition is open to all women between the ages of 13 and 17, but it especially tries to attract minority participants. States can hold their own competitions or select contestants to send to the international event. Ms. Brassfield-Farrow said she plans to organize an Ohio competition in April.
“I think the competition is an excellent opportunity for Lauren,” her father, Laurence Collins, said. “She has always expressed a desire to be on the stage. In a way, this is that wish of hers coming true.”
The program is paying for Lauren and her family to stay at the Millenium Broadway Hotel in New York. In addition to competition events, activities are to include Planet Hollywood, a city tour, and a visit to the Apollo Theatre.
“I'm excited for Lauren. I want her to have fun,” her mother, Linda, said. “If she brings home the title, I'll be so excited they'll have to pick me up off the floor.”