"This was such an amazing experience," said Elena Holder a recent graduate from the Durham School of the Arts.
RELATED: Jimmy Awards: Watch the musical theater competition Thursday
Elena and Raleigh native Joshua Messmore competed against 72 other nominees from 36 regions around the United States.
Both are the 2021 Triangle Rising Stars winners and got to take up residence in the Durham Performing Arts Center to work on their talents before the show.
Normally, Elena and Joshua would be headed to New York but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were virtual. All coaching, rehearsals and activities took place online too.
"I feel like I've already won because this has been so cool and I've met so many awesome people from across the country," said Elena who is headed to UNC-Chapel Hill for college in the fall.
She credits the pandemic for applying for the Triangle Rising Stars.
"The year has been weird but it's been a blessing in disguise," she said.
Notable Durham landmarks were featured in Thursday's livestream event including Durham's Bull statue, the American Tobacco Campus and the Durham Art Council mural.
"This just feels like the portal into the next stages of my career and I'm excited I've gotten to delve into it," said Messmore, who finished St. David's School in Raleigh.
Joshua said he started dancing when he was four. At the age of 12, he was doing theater all over Raleigh.
"It's really the culmination of my high school theater experience," Joshua said. "Going from doing productions and shows around Raleigh to spending an entire week in DPAC where touring productions come all the time."
He plans to double major in theater and legal studies at Northwestern University.
Both kept secret to what numbers they were performing Thursday.
To get more information about the Jimmy Awards and National High School Musical Theatre Awards program, visit JimmyAwards.com