For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you an expected end.
That verse has been playing in my head ever since I was crowned Miss Clemson University in January of 2016. From the moment I hit campus freshmen year, I was in love with this institution, but I never anticipated the opportunity to represent it in such a special way. This was a part of my life planned by someone much wiser than me, and as they put the crown on my head, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why me, God? What is your plan for me in this role?”
I never participate in anything without putting my best foot forward. That’s how I was raised. At the same time, I in no way anticipated beating some of the biggest names in the pageant world in order to win this title. I was happy to be considered, so blessed my sorority sisters trusted me to represent them. I had no idea what was coming, though.
With my reign ending this Saturday, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and what it has meant to me.
Being Miss Clemson University is special in that she has no ties to a larger pageant organization. While this means no director or assistance with scheduling events, it also provides a special autonomy. For the past year, it was on me to determine what I should be doing. I chose to primarily integrate the title into my existing life, not necessarily seeking special circumstances, but just using it as an excuse to volunteer more.
As usual, I did most of my volunteer work for the GHS Children’s Hospital, using the crown and being executive director of Clemson Miracle to get through the door. I got to see a lot of smiling faces, kids who thought I was way cooler than I actually am.
Through the pageant itself, we fundraised for the Clemson Child Development Center. I had the honor of delivering the check. If you’ve never been, it’s often a little chaotic. The kids have a lot of energy, and the adults have been there all day and will most likely take some work home. However, when their director, Carol, found a moment to step out of the room and saw the check, her face said more than words could about her gratitude for Mortar Board and all they do for CCDC.
Then, there was the moment they let me ride in the First Friday Parade. If you didn’t go to Clemson, this is the parade before our first home football game every fall, and to us, it’s kind of a big deal. To have my own car in the parade was a huge honor, and I loved every minute of blowing kisses to little girls and screaming cadence count with our alumni band.
Of all the years to be crowned Miss Clemson, I got 2016 – the year we finished off our football season with a National Championship title by defeating Alabama. The year Clemson Miracle raised over $71,000 for the children’s hospital. The year I graduated from Clemson and was accepted into their MBA program. The year my little brother started his freshmen year as a tiger. It has been a year I will never forget.
Five years ago, I decided to attend Clemson University. As a Georgia native, people repeatedly asked me why, and I had little to say other than “it just felt right.” I had no idea I had made the best decision of my life. During my time at Clemson, I met my best friends and the love of my life. I was challenged and changed by numerous mentors and opportunities. I realized that above all it wasn’t the school I chose but the people I found. The Clemson family – all the unique individuals who find common ground in a love of orange and purple – is the best to be surrounded by, and I am forever thankful I found each and every one of you.
To my parents, who agreed to send me to the only school I didn’t have a full scholarship to, thank you. I cannot express either my love for you and your support, or my love for this place, because the words just don’t exist. Just know, I could not have accomplished all I have without the unconditional love and support of you both.
To my little brother, Henry, I truly appreciate all of the pageants and dance recitals you have sat through. I’m so excited to watch your love of Clemson grow and to see how you both change over the next 4 (or maybe 5 if you’re lucky!) years.
To all the people who made it possible for me to succeed in the world of pageants: thank you. Mama K, you are truly my second mom, and I’m just so thankful for every hour I got to spend with you in the studio. Christine (Smith), wow, you’re the most talented human, and your salon is going to be the talk of the town! Thanks for making me the absolute best version of myself and drinking mimosas with me during makeup time. Cathy Scott, it has been way too long since we crossed paths, but you were the first to recognize I had the potential for the stage. Thank you for every gown you altered to perfection. And of course, Gregory Ellenburg, thank you for the gown of my dreams.
Christine (Scott) – thank you a thousand times over again for the hundreds of shots it took to perfectly expose a white evening gown at midday on a football field. You are such a talented photographer; I’m blessed to call you my friend.
To the women of Kappa Delta, thank you for letting me represent you on stage last year. I’m thankful for the continual support of so many of you, especially my roommates. Savannah, thank you for dressing me when clothes became overwhelming / taking me to wine night when life became overwhelming. Littlest One, thank you for being the best sister I could have asked for. My other Courtneys – all my love, I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t found you both 4.5 years ago. And English, you were last to the roommate party, which is good because the amount of fun we have together is deadly.
To my amazing boyfriend, Lawrence I know you never thought you’d sit through a pageant (or 5), but you have been so great about supporting everything I pursue. I’m thankful every day that Clemson brought me to you. You’re also the best puppy dad, and I’m so proud of the little nugget we’re raising.
Maybe it’s the sunsets, or the ice cream, or the tailgates that make Clemson so special; everyone has their own opinion. To me, it’s the people that make up our Clemson family that make it such a special place to call home. I am blessed every day to be a tiger, and I want to thank every member of my Clemson family for allowing me to represent you over the past year. To the girl we crown on Saturday, what you do is up to you, so make it the best year of your life to date! I am truly so excited for whoever gets to experience this incredible #ClemsonMoment next.
Forever your Miss Clemson University 2016,