A ‘royal’ influencer: Smithfield High senior forms mentorship-focused dance team
Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Smithfield High School senior Everyonna Williams has two favorite mottos: “My inner me defines my outer me” and “I survived my yesterday so that my future will be as bright as I want it to be.”
The latter is particularly descriptive of her high school experience, which has been far from normal.
After her first semester of ninth grade, her school in Concord, North Carolina, shuttered during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. By May 2020, she’d relocated with her family to the Smithfield area but stayed homeschooled even when Isle of Wight County Schools reopened classrooms to students that fall.
Despite being a self-described “people person,” she remained enrolled in Virtual Virginia, an online-only Virginia Department of Education learning platform, for the next two years. She only returned to a classroom setting in September.
“A lot has changed and it really motivates me to graduate and become a productive citizen so that I can give back to the community,” Williams said.
She already has a head start on the giving back part.
Within weeks of stepping through Smithfield High’s doors, she began observing the struggles of some of her classmates and took an interest in mentorship. In October, she became the founding member and coach of Smithfield’s new “Royal Influence” majorette dance team.
Westside Elementary School Counselor Martella Hawkins, who’s also Williams’ mother, serves as the team’s master mentor.
The team is open to girls ages 6-17, and in only four months, has grown to more than 30 members. Royal Influence hosted a three-day dance camp in late October at Nike Park and a formal induction ceremony at Westside Elementary on Nov. 29.
The Royalettes, as the girls refer to themselves, have been on the move ever since.
The team performed in Chesapeake’s 11th annual Chic-Fil-A Parade on Dec. 3, Portsmouth’s
“Something About the Youth Explosion” on Dec. 4 and the Smithfield Christmas Parade on Dec. 11. On Jan. 16, the team traveled to Washington, D.C., to dance in the 42nd national Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, where their performance made it onto NBC News.
On Jan. 28, they performed in their first basketball half-time show at Old Dominion University. They’re also booked to perform at the “Buck or Die” competition at Norfolk State University on April 29, hosted by Dianna Williams, star of the Lifetime reality series “Bring it!”
Being a Royalette isn’t just about dancing. By design, it’s also about mentorship. Royalettes adhere to a creed of SAPE. The acronym stands for “strictly adhere to memorized positive affirmations,” “attend social events to gain foundational skills of proper etiquette,” “perform boundless entertainment through dance at local and out-of-state events” and “explore meaningful places” by taking college tours and trips to historic and educational sites.
Williams’ two favorite mottos are each from the creed and affirmations Hawkins created.
Williams visited 20 colleges last summer with her mother, while on what Williams calls a “generational curse-breaking tour.” She’ll be the first in her family to attend college immediately after high school, and has been accepted to 32 colleges to date.
Alabama State University, one of only three historically Black colleges and universities nationwide that offers a degree specifically in dance, is presently Williams’ top choice. She hopes to major in elementary education with a concentration in dance and join the ASU “Honeybeez” dance team.
“The Honeybeez motto is ‘bee’ bold, ‘bee’ beautiful, ‘bee’ you, and is just simply my exact beliefs that builds my self confidence as a plus-size female,” Williams said.
She plans to return to Isle of Wight County after college to teach majorette-style dancing in a brick-and-mortar studio.