KENNEWICK, Wash.- The Miss Juneteenth scholarship program is in its 22nd year. 

Elouise Sparks is the founder and director of the local pageant.

“Sometimes when we go to these things we’re the only black person in the room. So, I teach them, when you walk into a room you walk in there proud of who you are. You are so unapologetically black and that’s how God made you and that’s what you’re proud of. So, you walk in and your very presence announces you. Not just the skin tone,” Sparks said. 

Miss Juneteenth is a scholarship program for African American girls in grades 10-12 who want to earn college scholarships and serve the Tri-Cities community. The current Queen, Alyssa Dunston is a senior at Chiawana High School.

“What this title means to me, it just shows my leadership and it shows that I am a leader. It gives me a lot of confidence in myself and I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I was younger. And just to earn this title and this position as Queen. It really gave me confidence and showed me that I can be a leader and it’s just amazing,” Dunston said.

This was Dunston’s second time competing for Miss Juneteenth and she said she has grown so much from the time she first competed to when she won. Now that she has the title, she’s able to spread what the message of Juneteenth means to her.

“I talk to little girls especially because I want them to know that there’s people out there that look like them and that can do things like this. I want to show them especially that this is possible for all of them and that everyone can do something like this themselves. I just want to make it really known that like you are special and I just love spreading that message to them because their eyes just light up whenever they see me and it’s just a wonderful feeling,” Dunston said.

Both Sparks and Dunston tell me the pageant night is so much fun but there’s a lot of work that leads up to that moment.

There’s a private interview with the judges before the on-stage competition. Then on stage, there’s an impromptu question, evening gown presentation, and talent. 

Before the pageant night in June, registration begins this month and in the months leading up to the competition, there are workshops and rehearsals to prepare the girls for the pageant and beyond.

“We don’t care what they look like, or what size they are, we are just concerned about ‘Do you want to go to college? Do you want some assistance to go to college?’ We spend time doing mock interviews with them, just shooting questions out there at them because you can use this in life. It’s not for just pageantry, they can go out and possibly get a job because they can go out and answer questions on the spot,” Sparks said. 

If you are interested in competing, registration is open until February 29th. If you’d like to support the program, there will be a fashion show called “A Night on the Runway With Our Kings” on February 24 at the Riverfront Hotel in Richland. 

To learn more about their program, click here.