Raven’s got talent

By Melonie Flomer Staff Writer

March 13, 2014

Raven Newton is outgoing, carries herself with pride, and beams with hope and happiness. It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence.

And she has the talent to back it up.

The 10-year-old West Rockingham Elementary School student dreams of singing and dancing on stage. She wants to be a star, and it shows in her bright eyes and winning smile. Music will, inevitably, take her places.

First, though, she needs an education — and she knows exactly where she’ll be going for that. While performing Whitney Houston’s 1985 hit remake of “The Greatest Love of All,” at a banquet for educators last November in Greensboro, she amazed, surprised and wowed the crowd.

Lucky for her, Bennett College President Rosalind Fuse-Hall was in attendance. Fuse-Hall rose from her seat, walked over to the child and offered her a business card. On the back was a personal message:

“This entitles you to a scholarship to attend Bennett College.”

It was better than a personal cell phone number.

“I felt overwhelmed,” Raven said of the scholarship offer. “I felt happy.”

The scholarship allows Raven the opportunity to attend the small, private, historically black liberal arts college for women in Greensboro at no charge. Annual tuition is more than $26,000.

Luck, though, has little to do with her success. Raven says she is blessed and simply taking advantage of opportunities afforded her as well as a God-given talent. She began singing at home and at Prayer and Faith Temple Church in Hamlet, where her grandfather, Tommy Legrand, is superintendent.

Faith Legrand-Steed, Raven’s mother, said, “I’m very proud of her, as her mother.”

Raven’s performances compel tears of joy from those in the audience while she follows a personal motto of “always believe in yourself. Always put God first.”

The performance also generated invitations for Raven to sing at other, higher-profile locations in the region. One song she loves to sing is “The Star-Spangled Banner” despite the number’s notorious difficulty.

At a young age, Raven already has set education and career goals. She wants to earn a master’s degree in music, move to a big city and start a nonprofit singing academy for girls and boys.

Raven already had a taste of life in a slightly larger city. She auditioned for The Disney Channel in a Wilmington talent search last September. Other performances under her belt include leading a song in the All-County Chorus and singing in the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration’s talent show.

She is also a state finalist in the National American Miss 2014 North Carolina Pre-Teen Pageant, where she plans to sing in the talent competition beginning June 26 in Winston-Salem.