Vic High Grad Miss Earth Canada 2023

Vic High Grad Miss Earth Canada 2023

by Linda Baker, VHS 1969

Layanna Robinson, VHS 2020, was still at Vic High when she won her first pageant, Miss Vancouver Island 2020, and she speaks highly of how accommodating the school was when it came to her eight hour a day ballet training regimen. Accepted into the Victoria Academy of Ballet Professional Training Program at age 11, Layanna says there were six or seven other VAB students also attending Vic High because of its flexibility and willingness to accommodate students’ other studies. “I would attend classes at Vic High until lunchtime,” says Layanna, “and complete my schooling with online courses. I was part of the last class to graduate from Vic High before the seismic upgrades.”

Vic High dance teacher Kerry Krich was also an important part of Layanna’s time at Vic High. “She has great energy,” says Layanna. “And she taught us all a lot more than dance. Our physical, mental and emotional health were very important, and I really appreciated the opportunities to showcase my ongoing dance training in various shows and performances.”

Enrolled in Vic High’s French Immersion program, Layanna found other aspects of life at Vic High very motivating. “(Immersion program teacher) Jean Campbell was so professional and approachable, and I was inspired by how students at Vic High give back to the community. I actually learned a valuable life skill in Home Ec, too – how to cook! – though I didn’t realize at the time how valuable it would become.”

While she admits she doesn’t know a lot about Vic High’s history, Layanna says she appreciated displays and information around the school of a historical nature. “There was one spooky story we heard,” she continues, “that the photo of the very first Vic High grad class included one student who was actually dead and her body propped up in the photo! But I’m sure that’s not true.”  She speaks highly of being in the building now being upgraded, adding that the auditorium is beautiful, and she loved the lists of past top (academic and leadership) students in the foyer and the grad class photos on the third floor. “Now I’m on the wall too,” she says.

Vic High Graduation 2022 was definitely a whole different experience, the COVID-19 protocols having been implemented earlier that spring. Principal Aaron Parker and staff went above and beyond to ensure students could participate in the Vic High tradition of signing their names in the attic. “We hadn’t seen our friends in-person since March,” explains Layanna, “so when we came at pre-arranged times to pick up our diplomas and go up into the attic, we were very excited to see each other.”

“There were so many options at Vic High,” she continues, “music, sport, personal expression. Out of all the high schools – Mt. Doug, Reynolds, Oak Bay, etc – Vic High is definitely known for its inclusivity and its acceptance of students’ unique interests and strengths.”

Despite years of dance training and performances, Layanna says her lack of self-confidence was what motivated her to start entering pageants. Her initial pageant platform advocacy for eliminating domestic violence arose from personal experiences, and her pageant experiences were so valuable she began presenting workshops online to educate youth about the early signs of domestic violence and what healthy relationships should look like.

Following her 2020 Miss Vancouver Island title win, she won the Miss Teen Western Provinces title (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), and then competed in Florida in 2021 against 50-60 contestants to become Miss Teen North America. November 2022, she competed in Toronto at the ‘Miss’ pageant level, recognized along with the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants as the top three international beauty pageants. She presented a classical ballet performance of the Princess Florine variation from the sleeping Beauty ballet, and was, like all contestants, assessed for her physical fitness and during evening wear and swimsuit competitions. She beat 49 other contestants and now holds the Miss Earth Canada 2023 title and will represent Canada at the Miss Earth 2023 contest in Vietnam.

Layanna no longer dances, and while she still offers her online workshops, she says her role now is to advocate for environmental awareness and social responsibility, and how Canadians can take action on climate change. She is also completing the last course for her Dental Hygiene diploma and may pursue a career in dentistry. Despite all the demands on her time, she believes passionately in giving back and has helped with BC Wildfires fundraising at Whitecaps games, with support for Victoria’s Rainbow Kitchen and Women in Transition, and helped take Easter goody baskets to seniors’ homes.

Congratulations, Layanna, on your commitment and discipline, and on turning the challenges of your life into such generous support and advocacy for others. It’s clear you embody many of the traditions of Vic High as you pursue your dreams and goals.