This year’s winner was 17-year-old junior Loren Vermillion, who joins three other essay winners from across the state. Winners each received an Apple MacBook Air laptop and $1,000 for their high school.
About the contest
Dominion Energy’s Strong Men & Women in Virginia History program annually honors prominent African-Americans, past and present, who have made noteworthy contributions to the state, the nation and their professions. An awards program was held Feb. 7 at the Marriott in Richmond.
In partnership with the Library of Virginia, this year’s program recognized seven African-American leaders in addition to the four student essay winners. The other essay winners were Erika Garcia of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Katherine Stenner of Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield and William Lee Williams of Granby High School in Norfolk.
Representing Scott County
Born in Kingsport, Vermillion and her family moved to Gate City three years ago, though she has always attended Scott County schools because her parents are teachers in the system. She decided to enter the essay contest after one of her previous English teachers suggested it to her.
She submitted her essay in November and was notified of her win in December. She attended the awards ceremony a couple of weeks ago and read her winning essay to an audience of around 500 people.
Vermillion and the other students were tasked with writing an essay on how to embody equality, now and in the future.
“I wrote about how it’s important for people to advocate for everybody and how you shouldn’t leave women fighting for women’s rights by themselves, or black people fighting for black rights by themselves,” Vermillion said. “Everybody needs to fight for everybody’s rights, and that’s how we can really embody equality.”
After her high school graduation, Vermillion plans to go to college and pursue a career in the medical field.
“I actually want to be a surgeon,” Vermillion said. “I’m looking at a couple different (schools) right now: LMU (Lincoln Memorial University) and UVA-Charlottesville. I don’t know if I want to go too far away from home, so it’s kind of still up in the air right now.”
For now, she feels grateful for her essay contest win, which allowed her to explore Richmond and meet people from across the state.
“I’ve been there a couple times, but I’d never really been downtown; I’ve just been in little suburbs,” Vermillion said. “It was a really fun experience just to go and see everything.”