Student Spirit Shines in the Nova Star Scholarship Competition

The crowned winners Hinds, Speights and Jules celebrate | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, FIU

Priscilla Pozo | Assistant Entertainment Director

Students contestants embodied resistance and strength with their creativity in the Nova Star Scholarship Competition.

Marking the beginning of FIU’s Juneteenth celebrations on June 10, the annual event honors students who display leadership, confidence and who are overall exemplary representatives of FIU’s student body.

The six contestants were Amelia Hinds, Athena Scarlett, Shania Sylvain, Dior Crooks, Maikaia Speights, and Chandler Jules.

“I chose to enroll into this competition because I have some former pageant experience, which helped me feel confident in applying,” said Speights, a third-year nursing student and the third place winner.

“This competition made me feel like I was serving a purpose and gave me a platform to share my experiences.” 

Hinds showcased her recycled PantherNOW newspaper dress and umbrella decorated with diverse flags | Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, FIU 

The event consisted of four categories: FIU Spirit, Talent, Social Issue Speech, and a Q&A portion before judges deliberated and eventually awarded first, second, and third place prizes. 

The FIU Spirit category introduced the contestants and allowed them to make an impression with the audience and judges.

From Hinds’ dress made entirely out of PantherNOW newspapers to Crooks’ outfit inspired by the political organization known as the Black Panthers, contestants displayed the deep ties between personal identity and school spirit.

The talent portion followed as contestants performed passionate theatrical performances, dance routines, spoken word poetry and instrumental acts that dove deep into the African-American experience. 

In her CPR-tutorial-turned-spoken word, Speights shared the story of Anarcha, a young enslaved woman who was experimented on by J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology | Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, FIU 

“I chose to do a soliloquy about a young pregnant slave because I thought about how painful it must have been to be a slave and a mother without choice,” said Hinds. 

“To write the piece, I put myself in the shoes of the character… to convey what it feels like to be trapped and alone.”

For the third and most moving section, contestants gave well-researched, educated and heartfelt speeches covering a wide range of topics from immigration, underrepresentation, and food insecurity, to name a few. 

Each contestant shared their unique perspective on a topic they felt particularly close to, offering personal viewpoints and real-life accounts. 

Lastly, the thought-provoking Q&A portion of the event that tested the contestants’ knowledge and gave them a minute to talk directly to the judging panel. 

Host Destiny Washington shares the judges’ Q&A prompt with contestant Crooks | Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, FIU  

While the judges deliberated, the FIU Eclipse Fashion Society took to the stage to perform a ballroom showcase both in honor of Pride month as well as the African-American roots of the ballroom scene itself. 

The three hour event culminated in the announcement of the top three finalists. Maikaia Speights, a junior studying Nursing, came in third place earning her a $1500 scholarship. In second place, with a $2000 scholarship, was senior creative writing major Chandler Jules. 

The first place grand prize and $3000 scholarship went to Amelia Hinds, a freshman studying international business management. 

Hinds recalls the moment that her name was called as first place winner. 

“I was overjoyed, having felt that all my hard work had truly paid off. I’ve never won anything or been first place in any competition, so this meant the world to me,” said Hinds. 

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