By Amy Will | firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Henry K through 8 principal Ingrid Bynum has spent much of her career promoting the importance of education. As a young girl, she quickly realized the vital role reading played in her future.
“My first book ever … was a Ramona Quimby book. And that book changed my life,” Bynum said.
Reflecting on her early childhood, Bynum said she grew up without books of her own. When she was eight years old, a program called Reading Is Fundamental provided Bynum with her very first book.
“I immediately fell in love with Beverly Cleary. Then next, it was Judy Blume. That just started my love and my passion for literacy and knowing it’s important. Education was my way out of poverty,” Bynum said.
In June, Bynum decided to advocate on a much bigger stage, winning the crown of Mrs. Virginia and shining the spotlight on her platform of student literacy.
“I was really honored to be a part of it [pageant] because there were so many educated, wonderful women,” Bynum elaborated.
Now, she has added a run for the national title of Mrs. America to her usual back-to-school preparations, a balancing act she said has been a bit challenging at times, but also incredibly rewarding.
“This is the first time ever that I’m going to miss the first day of school and the first week of school. And, I’m really sad because I love the excitement and the sheer joy on the children’s faces when they come in for the first day. But, I’ll be back on the [August] 28th and hopefully I’ll be back with the Mrs. America crown,” Bynum said
Prior to the Mrs. Virginia competition, Bynum said she had only one other pageant on her resume.
“I did the Maryland USA pageant when I was an undergrad student at the University of Maryland at College Park. And that was to help fund my education,” she added.
Bynum admitted that de- spite that prior experience, the pageant world was still a little foreign.
“At first my husband was shocked because he had never heard of me talking about anything like this. My daughter was excited about it. When I won [Mrs. Virginia], I just recall looking for my husband in the audience and he was still standing there shocked,” Bynum recounted.
Bynum revealed time management has been one of the biggest hurdles in the process, but she eventually found her groove.
“There’s extensive training involved. I had a coach that I would travel to in Baltimore. And then I have a personal trainer that I see four days a week as well. I’m a principal at Patrick Henry and I’m a very happy, proud principal here. So, I give everything that I have to our students and our staff. So that was a lot,” she said.
Bynum first entered the state pageant hoping to raise awareness for her cause. She said student literacy has continued to be a driving force throughout her journey.
“I’m the only person in my family who has ever gone to college and received a degree. To be as far along as I am, thanks to education, is huge. And, I know if it impacted my life and changed my life in the way that it has, I know that children who live in underserved communities will have the same experience,” Bynum said.
Bynum understands the struggles many families face and said she knew she had to seize the opportunity to help those students who need it most.
“It’s difficult for parents nowadays, especially post pandemic. To have to make decisions between basic essentials for just living such as rent and gas and food, and then go to purchase a book for their child. There’s a library, but we find oftentimes that our parents are also working during the hours that the library is open,” Bynum said.
Bynum said she had a “lightbulb moment” that she could do some good with the pageant.
“This is really when I was kind of like, ‘gosh, if I could take this to a broader audience and really hone in with lawmakers and partners who own companies and sponsorships to be able to provide books for children, this would be a great thing,’” she said.
The seasoned educator is now entering her 12th year as principal and said she has seen a shift in her students since the pandemic.
“Children are just not ok right now when it comes to academics,” Bynum lamented. “And those children who live in underserved communities really are not ok. And the ones who are not in our under- served communities still were impacted. So, I really wanted to make a big difference.”
Following her crowning as Mrs. Virginia, Bynum said doors began to open.
“I’ve already gone to see Congressman Bobby Scott, who was the ranking member on the House Education and Workforce Committee. I spoke about how we need more resources and more funding and more materials,” she said.
She said that meeting was just one of the many she plans to have to ensure every child has a library of their very own.
“I think some of the points I was talking to him about were pretty eye-opening. That children don’t have books and kids need these things. Then I real- ized if I’m able to get in to see him with just the title of Mrs. Virginia, what impact will I be able to make on a larger scale as Mrs. America?”
Bynum said planning for the national competition, which will be held in Las Vegas on August 26, has been a family affair.
“My daughter is really excited. She is really excited about what this means for children who grew up like me. My husband will be there to support me. He’s been wonderful and I’m really looking forward to having him in Vegas with me,” Bynum said.
One element of the Mrs. America pageant is a People’s Choice award. Voters have until August 21 to support their favorite delegate and Bynum is currently in the top slot.
“I’m in first place and I’d like to be able to hold on to that. That’ll take me into the top 15 automatically and guarantee me a spot for the finals,” Bynum said.
Although the next couple of weeks will be busy, Bynum said she is not slowing down.
“At this point, I’m all in. If I can impact an entire generation of children in an incredible way, to change the trajectory of their lives for the better and open up doors of opportunity for them, I’m going for it.”
And, whether she returns to the halls of her school with a title or not, Bynum hopes her story will inspire her students to dream big.
“I just want any little girls or even just any woman who’s reading, I want them to know that we are capable of doing any and everything that we put our minds to as women. And it definitely is possible to have an amazing career, be a mother, be a wife and still make a huge im- pact on the community. And if that’s something that they’re thinking of, I want them to go forward and do it,” Bynum said.
To cast your vote for Ingrid Bynum for the Mrs. America People’s Choice award, visit: mrsamerica.com/delegates-2023-2
For more information or to support Reading Is Fundamental, visit: rifnova.org