Oak Grove High School senior Emmie Perkins sang her way to a $5,000 scholarship Saturday by winning the Tupelo Elvis Presley Fan Club scholarship contest finals.
Perkins topped nine other finalists for first place in the competition at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo. Each year the fan club presents three scholarships totaling $10,000 to high school seniors from throughout the state. The scholarships are funded through the sale of Elvis Presley car tags, according to event organizer Diane Whitt. Currently there are more than 2,000 tags in circulation.
Perkins said she’s always been an Elvis fan.
“My grandmother gave me a record player in middle school and along with it she gave me her original ‘Elvis's Greatest Hits’ record from when she was a teenager,” Perkins said. “But any artist that comes out of Mississippi is an inspiration to me. People underestimate Mississippi without realizing some of the great musicians, puppeteers, and writers that have come out of our state.”
Perkins said she found out about the scholarship through OGHS, which regularly updates seniors on available scholarship opportunities. “It’s a great resource as a student looking to fund my undergraduate education,” she said. “And this scholarship was unique and stood out to me because I could use what I love to do, which is sing, to compete for scholarships.”
Whitt said there are no stipulations as to where or how the scholarship money can be used. “It can be used for anything at school,” she said. “As long as it’s a graduating senior, we just want to help them try to get to that next level of education.”
As part of the scholarship application process, entrants were required to upload a video to YouTube of themselves performing for review by a selection committee. More than 50 students from across the state submitted videos for a spot in the top performers. The top ten finalists were then invited to perform an Elvis song and another song of their choice before a panel of judges at the Tupelo competition.
Perkins sang Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “Never Enough” from the movie “The Greatest Showman” in the finals.
Perkins said "Never Enough" is such a powerful song that she instantly fell in love with it after watching The Greatest Showman.
"Can't Help Falling In Love" is such a widely known and celebrated song by Elvis, so I decided I wanted to honor him through one of this greatest works by singing that particular song.”
In addition to vocal, this year’s talent included performances with guitar, piano, ukulele and dance.
Avery Neyland, a Brandon resident attending the Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven, won the $3,000 second-place scholarship. Tae’Angelo Carter of Leland High School won the $2,000 third-place scholarship. Maleigh Collier of Nettleton High School, who placed fourth, won a recording session with a local studio.
Perkins, who ended up being selected last to perform, which she described as nerve wracking, “because I normally volunteer to be first,” was definitely surprised she won. “It must have been a good luck charm. I was surrounded by such talented performers, but win or not, I would have gained a great experience from the opportunity.”
Perkins, who served as Lamar’s County Distinguished Young Woman last year, and finished as first runnerup at the state competition, said the program was an experience that shaped her to be successful in her life going forward and created long-lasting relationships.
“I can definitely thank the DYW program for preparing me to be successful in competition like the one the Elvis Presley Fan Club put on.”
Perkins said her involvement in Groove House of Hattiesburg, that offers music lessons in any instrument, has enabled her to strengthen her piano skills while singing songs she loves and accompanying herself.
Perkins said the Elvis Presley Fan Club Scholarship competition was an unexpected blessing in her life.
“The scholarship money offered is amazing and any senior that has a hobby of dancing, singing, or playing an instrument should apply for this scholarship because you never know what you could gain,” she said. “I never thought the love of Elvis Presley would help fund my education. Elvis loved giving back and if he could see the work of the Elvis Presley Fan Club today and their contribution to seniors seeking higher education, he would be proud.”
In the fall, Perkins will be attending Mississippi State University where she will major in Biological Sciences on the Pre-Med track and minor in music “to keep my love for singing entertained.”