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Layla Locklear named 2011 Impact Award winner


The twin passions of the newest recipient of the Community Impact Student Award are her Native American culture and the environment.

Layla Rose Locklear, a sophomore from Pembroke, is the winner of UNCP’s top student award for civic engagement. The award is given to one student on each member campus of the North Carolina Campus Compact, a consortium of universities to promote civic engagement.

As a UNCP student, Locklear has successfully combined her interests by majoring in environmental science and minoring in American Indian Studies. She keeps a busy schedule.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to accept the Impact Award in person; I’ll be in Minneapolis at the annual AISES conference,” she said. “I am very busy all the time.”

Locklear 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).

Kay Freeman, director of UNCP’s Healthy Start Program, nominated Locklear for the 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. It was 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.”

As part of the program, Locklear participated in Dolphin Encounter, which added to her interest in science. “My goal is to earn a Ph.D. in marine science and work with marine environmental projects for American Indian tribes,” she said.

While an undergraduate, one of Locklear’s goals is to become Miss Indian North Carolina in 2012, a pageant that tests tribal knowledge and Native American skills. She is well prepared after a year representing the Lumbee tribe with the North Carolina Native American Youth Organization (NCNAYO).

“As Miss NCNAYO (2009-10), I was the student representative for the tribe, and my role was to promote cultural awareness among our youth,” she said. “It was a great year. I learned a lot and made a lot of friends while traveling throughout the state and nation.”

Locklear is a regular at powwows and music festivals, where she sings with her brother’s group Lakota John and Friends. “I guess I’m one of the ‘friends,” she laughed. “I started singing in church, and I sing blues and gospel with my brother.”

At the date of this interview, the band was preparing to play at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival. Performing from a young age, Locklear 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.”