By Shanderia K. Posey
Congratulations are in order for Ryone Thompson, 18, of Hattiesburg, who was crowned National American Miss Mississippi Teen 2016 last weekend at the state pageant.
“I still can’t believe it. It feels like a dream,” said Thompson, who has been a part of the National American Miss organization for nearly five years.
The title earns Thompson a $1,300 scholarship. She, along with Mississippi winners in different categories, will head to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., during Thanksgiving week this fall to compete for national titles and prizes worth more than $500,000.
What Thompson enjoys most about NAM is the pageants don’t focus on the outside of a person. She credits the organization for improving her communication, poise and presentation skills as well as increasing overall confidence. NAM awards $1.5 million in cash, scholarships and prizes yearly to assist the development of young women nationwide.
The May 2016 graduate of Oak Grove High School is grateful for the opportunity to share her platform of “Searching For The Green Light” across the state. Her platform raises awareness about ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ), something Thompson was diagnosed with at age 9.
“I know how it feels to be left behind in the classroom,” said Thompson. However, as she shares her message with youth and parents across Mississippi she tells children, “You can be successful.”
Thompson’s mother, Niki Thompson, explained how her daughter’s platform allows her to share information on handling ADHD after diagnosis, particularly mentoring, treatment and counseling combined.
“One of the biggest things (with having ADHD) is being very forgetful,” Niki Thompson said. Her daughter had to learn how to prioritize activities in her life.
The pageant life wasn’t something Ryone or her family set out to do. After winning a school pageant years ago, the teenager received an open call letter from NAM and the rest is history.
She has placed and competed in several pageants. She was chosen Miss Hattiesburg Outstanding Teen 2014-2015, which was a pageant conducted by the Miss America organization. She was second runner-up for the state title that year though she won first place in interview – a feat she credits to her dad, Roderick Thompson. He teaches at East Marion High School in Columbia and has been an English teacher for 15 years. He majored in speech communication in college with a minor in drama.
While some contestants hire interview coaches to prepare for pageants, Roderick Thompson is the one who gets his daughter ready for what he describes as her “God-given talent.”
He gained insight on pageant requirements from others and went from there.
“I just spend a lot of time researching,” he said. “Ryone is easy to work with. (Pageant officials) don’t want unintelligent queens.”
He makes sure she keeps abreast of current events by watching news programs such as CNN. All pageants ask about life goals and in her most recent pageant, Ryone had to give a 30-second personal introduction.
Just before a pageant, Ryone and her dad hone her interview skills by lots of practicing in which he drills her with questions to immediately answer.
“He’s definitely a lifesaver and an angel,” Ryone said.
Thompson is a testament to overall success.
Her honors include Beta Club, Emerging Young Leaders, Spirit Girls of Hattiesburg, Link Mentoring Program, Speech/Debate, Ivy Pearls of Hattiesburg, Honor Graduate of Oak Grove High School, Mississippi Scholar 2016 and Golden Eagle Recipient 2016. She also works at the Hattiesburg Zoo.
This fall she plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg – her parents’ alma mater – and major in broadcast journalism.
She is setting her sights on winning more pageants, including Miss America one day.
As for young girls considering pageants, her advice is to “step outside of your comfort zone. You can gain friendships that last a lifetime.”
Shanderia K. Posey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.