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Friday, June 1, 2012

MISS INDIAN N.C.: Layla Locklear named 2011 Impact Award winner

UNCP student and Pembroke native, Layla Locklear had a big year, winning one of the state’s top awards for civic engagement and then winning the title of Miss Indian North Carolina.

Layla LocklearThe twin passions of the newest recipient of the Community Impact Student Award are her Native American heritage and the environment.

Layla Rose Locklear, a rising junior, won UNCP’s top student award for civic engagement during 2011-12. The award is given annually to one student on each member-campus of the North Carolina Campus Compact, a consortium of universities to promote civic engagement.

Not long after accepting the Impact Award, Locklear was named Miss Indian North Carolina in March at the North Carolina Indian Unity Conference. It was her second major title. In 2009-10, she was named Miss NCNAYO (N.C. Native American Youth Organization).  

Locklear had listed the Miss Indian title as her next goal in her young life. So it was a sweet year for the student.

The Miss Indian N.C. pageant tests the contestants’ tribal knowledge and Native American skills. Locklear, who is a Women’s Southern Traditional dancer, is a powwow veteran and an expert on Native culture. During her title year, she will travel around the state as an ambassador for both the Lumbee and North Carolina’s Indian population.

As a student, Locklear has successfully combined her interests by majoring in environmental science. At this date, she is contemplating an advanced degree in Native Environmental Science.

Locklear’s career ambitions may take her West, where a large branch of her family tree came from. When asked how she explains her Oglala Sioux connection, she laughes. “I tell them I’m related to Crazy Horse; then I explain the family history”

Locklear is a third generation UNCP student. Her grandfather Ray Elk is an Oglala Sioux, who married a Lumbee woman he met while serving in the military. He is the first UNCP graduate in the family. Ray became a teacher, and his son, Victor, became a track and cross country star at UNCP. Layla’s parents John and Tonya Elk Locklear both work at UNCP.

Besides attending statewide powwows and events of all eight North Carolina tribes, Locklear has a full life. On campus, she is secretary-treasurer of UNCP’s chapter of AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society). She is also secretary of the campus Native American Student Organization (NASO).

At festivals and at other venues, Locklear sings gospel and the blues with her brother, blues guitarist Lakota John and their family’s band. They have played from Shakori Hills to the Red Springs Street Festival.

Locklear get high marks from administrators who have worked with her, including Aubrey Swett, director of the Office of Community and Civic Engagement.

Performing from a young age, Layla has developed considerable poise, said Aubrey Swett, director of UNCP’s Office of Community and Civic Engagement.

“I’ve known Layla since she was in grade school,” Swett said. “She’s got a lot of talent that she is sharing with young people. She is very deserving of this award.”

While Locklear has her sights set on working far from home, she said she won’t forget where she came from.

“When I achieve my goals, I want to come home and give back,” she said. “Everything you do is influenced by your community and the people there.

“The more knowledge I gain, the more I can give back,” Locklear said. “I want to return the favor to other young people.”

Kay Freeman, director of UNCP’s Healthy Start Program, nominated Locklear for the Campus Compact award.

“Layla is one of those students who takes pride in her education and her commitment to helping others,” she said. “She is an inspiration to many youth in both personal and academic venues.

“She is always willing to devote her time and energy to great causes,” Freeman continued. “Layla is committed to the Boys and Girls Club of the Lumbee Tribe, and she is a positive role model for our youth. In light of all of her achievements, there is no question why she was also selected as a ‘Woman to Watch’ at the American Indian Women of Proud Nations Annual Conference in September.”

Locklear has volunteered at the Pembroke Boys and Girls Club, teaching a course in marine science to third, fourth and fifth graders as part of a grant program to promote scientific and cultural awareness.

“With the Boys and Girls Club, I got my feet wet working with youth,” she said. “I set goals every day and tried to make it meaningful for the children. Being a role model is a big responsibility, and I learned a lot from it.”

The future is a big, wide open place for Layla Locklear. Wherever she lands, she is destined to make a big impact.

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