Southington woman is a finalist in MSNBC Contest

Know Your Value
By TAYLOR HARTZ
STAFF WRITER

Southington resident Diana Evjen, owner of Evjen Academy of Performing Arts dance studio in Farmington is one of three finalists in MSNBC’s nation-wide “Know Your Value” contest.

The contest, sponsored by NBCUniversal News Group, is part of a partnership with Brzezinski, stemmed from her New York Times bestselling book “Know Your Value.”

The book release has been followed by a series of five live events across the country, encouraging women to overcome obstacles in their careers and personal lives.

Evjen, a business owner and Mother of three, began her ballet career in San Jose, Calif., at the age of two and opened her studio in Connecticut nearly a decade ago.

After studying dance and business at Hofstra University in New York, she started Evjen Academy in 2005.

What began as a six-student studio has swelled to as many as 300 students from across the state.

Her studio is now more than 4,000 square feet, with 10 faculty members, two managers, and two assistant directors. The studio also houses an award winning competitive group, Elite Company.

At home, Evjen and her husband Roy care for their three sons, Erik, 12, Emet, 7, and E.J., 3.

Last November, E.J. was diagnosed with autism.

Evjen and her husband Roy have created a safe space in their home for E.J., with a trampoline, exercise balls ad weighted back packs to accommodate his special needs.

While running her business and teaching classes in several styles of dance, Evjen spends more than 40 hours each week at the studio.

In her time at home, she provides all three of her sons with care and attention as she tries to “grasp the learning curve” surround E.J.’s diagnosis.

“Its definitely a constant,” she said of her always-growing studio and new challenges at home.

Evjen was been chosen by NBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski as a finalist in the “Grow Your Value Bonus Competition” after she submitted a 60-second video explaining why and how she “knew her value” and felt she deserved the contests’ $10,000 bonus prize.

“Although I live in a house full of boys, I’m a big advocate for women,” said Evjen.

The dancer was one of three contestants who was chosen to give their presentation live in Chicago on Sept. 25 at the “Know Your Value” event at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.

The three finalists were also flown to Orlando last month, where they attended the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute’s Corporate Athlete training course where they received help from life, fitness and nutrition coaches.

Two events have already been held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and two more will take place in Boston and Orlando, Fla.

“We want to create a different kind of national movement that provides tips, training and resources that feel realistic for working women in their every day lives,” said Brzezinski.

In Chicago, Evjen and the other two finalists will have the opportunity to participate in a series of interactive panels and one-on-one coaching.

The goal of these activities is to teach tools for women to negotiate promotions, improve relationships and better their communication skills through style and body language.

“The whole idea behind knowing your value is to provide tangible, relatable advice that can empower women to achieve their own vision of success,” said Brzezinski.

The Southington resident will then take the stage with finalists from Florissant, Mo., and Little Rock, Ark.

Special guests involved in the panels will include Sen. Clair McCaskill, Sheri Salata, President of Oprah Winfrey Network and Alison Levine, Team Captian of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition.

Contestants will also hear from former White House Communications Director Zoraida Sambolin, NBC 5 Chicago Anchor Meredith Rollins, and Redbook Editor-in-Cheif Joe Scarbarough, among others.

The winner of the grand prize will be announced following the presentations this Friday.

If chosen as the finalist, Evjen said she plans to use the $10,000 prize to expand her business and grow her brand.

The studio-owner said she would buy a larger, more up-to-date studio space, and would like to begin classes in autism movement therapy.

“I’d like to be able to give back to the community and my own kids,” she said.

While she has exciting plans for how to grow her study and give back if she is the chosen finalist, Evjen said the monetary prize is just a bonus after everything this experience has taught her.

“I hope more women look into doing things like this,” said Evjen. “They really want you to become the best you can be.”

Admissions for the Orlando based contest are open to all women for 60-second video entries, submitted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 18.

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