Special to the New Journal and Guide
On June 19th, two African American holidays—Juneteenth and World Sickle Cell Awareness Day—bring awareness to the community, the nation, and the world. As Teen Ambassador 2022 for the Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Association (SCDAA), Miss Ayana Lee Johnson of Hampton Roads, carries out this mission. On June 25 in Roanoke, the Teen Ambassador 2022, added another title to her name as she was crowned Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen.
Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen organization hosts a state competition intended to encourage and reward the talent, communication skills, community service and academic achievement of girls between 13 and 18 years of age. The teen pageant occurs during the same week as the Miss Virginia pageant. Now, Miss Johnson, 16, will travel to Texas in August as Virginia’s representative in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.
Despite living and coping with sickle cell on a daily basis, Miss Johnson has already achieved many notable accomplishments.
The teen queen lists Suffolk, Virginia as her hometown where she was educated in the city’s public schools. Her pageant platform issue was “Ayana’s R.E.A.D Initiative – Readiness to Empower, Advocate, and Diminish Hopelessness in Chronic Illness”. She aspires to become a Pediatric Hematologist.
In the talent portion of the pageant, she performed a musical theater dance to “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.
An honor student, she holds a number of scholastic honors that include Virginia House of Delegates All A Honor Roll Award; Governor’s School for the Arts; Suffolk Art League Scholarship Recipient; National Honor Society of High School Scholars; and District Young Authors Award.
In addition to her volunteer community service for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and being crowned 2022 National Teen Ambassador, she also has volunteered for the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office; American Red Cross; CHKD Kids as Partners Advisory Council; and St. Vincent de Paul Church as a Lector, Altar Server, and Usher.
She has been featured in local media outlets Virginian-Pilot and Suffolk News Herald (20 Under 21); and received proclamations from current Mayor Mike Duman and former Mayor Sherman Lea.
Her awards are numerous, including Suffolk Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Youth Community Leader of the Year 2021.
Johnson has said she “wants to be recognized as an advocate who created safer spaces for people with chronic illnesses even if they do not fit the traditional mold of ‘normalcy’. I want to uplift and empower those living with debilitating illnesses and encourage them to fulfill their aspirations.”
As the national ambassador for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, she said she has “already shared my message nationwide to a collective audience of over 405,000”
When asked “Why I should be Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2023”, she replied, “At just five years old, I had my first memorable experience with Sickle Cell Disease. My voice was not heard as I tried to describe the excruciating pain I was experiencing. Although traumatic, that experience taught me the importance of determination and resilience.
“I have learned to live every day to the fullest and never let my disease define me or my character. I will continue to uplift individuals living with chronic illnesses and encourage them to be assertive and empowered while proudly wearing the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen crown.”