LaLona Richards – Mrs Georgia America 2010
“Peggy of Peggy Johnson Productions and Talent, thank you for believing in me and taking me to a level of professionalism and ambition that I would not have achieved alone, and thank you for composing this song for my final walk tonight.” LaLona Richards – final walk Mrs. Georgia America
Born and raised in rural Kentucky, LaLona grew up with an emphasis on God, family, hard work, leadership, and great country cooking. These principles have guided and directed her on her paths to success.
LaLona’s leadership qualities were obvious at an early age. By the time she graduated high school, she had receive seven state-wide and two national awards, including Central Kentucky’s Youth Leader of the Year, State Champion in Original Oratory, Youth Governor of Kentucky, Mock Trial Champion (8th and 12th nationally), and Kentucky’s Youth Attorney of the Year. She went on to double major in government and philosophy at the University of Virginia and graduate as a Distinguished Major – one of UVA’s highest honors.
However, during her senior year of college Teach For America — a program that recruits top college graduates to teach for two years in some of America’s toughest schools and then provides them with stipends and scholarships for graduate school – caught her attention.
She applied and was accepted (an average of 9% of applicants are accepted each year), and was assigned to teach English in rural Arizona.
Shocked by the lack of resources and absence of zeal on behalf of the teachers, and inspired by the enthusiasm and obvious ability of the students, LaLona realized that education – not law – was where she needed to be. Within a few weeks of school she had several experiences that have directly impacted the rest of her life, and she declared that improving the quality of education in high-poverty areas would be her life mission. Whether it be soliciting resources, founding clubs or sports teams, or insisting on nights and weekends of tutoring, LaLona has paved a unique path to academic success for hundreds of students.
LaLona has taught 7th and 8th grade in both Arizona and Georgia, worked as the Southwest Recruitment Director for Teach For America, the Professional Development Specialist for KIPP WAYS Academy, and most recently was the Lead Middle School Facilitator for the Rollins Center for Language and Learning.
Under her direction, LaLona’s students have experienced remarkable results. For example, in one year’s time, LaLona guided one group of students to increase their standardized test scores by 22 percent in reading and 21 percent in language arts and had individual students rise as many as four grade levels in reading. Additionally, in the 2007 original implementation of the 8th grade Writing Test, she led her students to a 95% passing rate, compared to 67% in Georgia and 63% in Atlanta Public Schools.
In addition to her passion for education, LaLona has a long-term love for fitness and nutrition. The country breakfasts and casseroles of Eastern Kentucky led her to a level of childhood obesity, and she realized around the age of ten that she needed to make immediate changes in her diet and exercise plan. Always prone to self-educate, LaLona researched diet plans and began a regular exercise program with a gym trainer. She then began running competitively and playing team basketball. Her dedication to nutrition and exercise has never lost momentum. She went on to become a marathon runner and now works as a personal trainer and nutritional coach.
This myriad of interests is only secondary to LaLona’s number one focus in her life – her family. She is married to Dan Richards, a tax accountant for Deloitte, and the mother of two young boys: Brendan (3) and Hadley (1). LaLona values nothing more than time watching, playing with, and learning from her sons. She gave up her full-time career to be at home with the boys and is able to maintain both her education and fitness goals during a very well-disciplined time-management plan that revolves mostly around nap times and bedtimes!
On June 27th, 2010, LaLona’s world rapidly changed when she was crowned Mrs. Georgia America 2010. A seemingly insurmountable dream realized, she is now traveling the state and nation speaking to others about what each of us can do to promote “Equality in Education” by improving the educational opportunities in high-poverty areas, offering seminars on fitness and nutrition, leading discussions on family relationships, and partnering with MENC (Music Education National Council) to promote music education in our schools.
LaLona is available for public appearances, speaking engagements, corporate and small business endorsements, modeling for print and runway.
Her two platforms are:
“Nutrition, Health and Fitness for Today’s Woman”
“Education in the Schools – Giving All Students a Quality Education, Regardless of Circumstance”
Lalona recommends the following businesses:
- Big Peach Running Co.
- Bocado Restaurant
- Cinderella’s Closet
- IQ Fitness
- Kroger – State Bridge, Alpharetta
- Marsha Gordon, Dentist
- Nalley Infiniti of Decatur
- National Colonic and Weight Loss Center
- Pageant Pros
- Peggy Still School of Music
- Robert Frost Salon
- Siggers Hairdressers
- Spa Sydell
- Toys R Us
- Vein Innovations
- Vibrance – A Hair Studio