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Released February 17, 2003

MISS SOUTHERN TO PROMOTE ARTS EDUCATION

HATTIESBURG - While she prepares for the Miss Mississippi Pageant in July, Miss Southern Carrie Parker of Laurel will be busy promoting her platform, "Arts for All."

Parker, a senior broadcast journalism major at The University of Southern Mississippi, won the title Saturday at the pageant on the Southern Miss campus. She bested nine contestants for the right to compete at the Miss Mississippi Pageant in July.

Jennifer Duke, a junior from Pearl, was voted first alternate. Olivia Grey Pritchard, a senior from Hattiesburg, was second alternate, followed by Natasha Casely-Hayford, a junior from West Point, third alternate, and Sanja Johnson, a senior from Gulfport, fourth alternate.

Parker hopes to bring more attention to the need for increased funding for arts programs in education and to increase the public awareness of the importance of arts education for Mississippi's children.

"I'll probably be speaking on campus and around the state about the importance of arts education," she said.

Parker said she has been involved in the arts all of her life. She has been involved in several theater, dance and music programs for children in public schools and churches in the area. She said through her contact with these children, she believes many young people and their parents have come to realize the importance of the arts to their development.

"I had to do a paper as a freshman on arts in education, and it just stuck with me, some of the statistics that showed the positive impact on academic achievement the arts can have," she said.

Parker is the daughter of Neal and Judi Holifield of Laurel and John and Brenda Parker of Hattiesburg. Brenda is the host of WDAM-TV's Midday Show.

Overwhelmed at winning the title, Parker had been out of serious pageant competition since she won the Jones County Junior Miss title in 1999.

"It was very shocking (to win Miss Southern)," she said. "All day I prayed to be an alternate, and then they didn't call me for that – so I was completely shocked when they called my name (as the winner).

"I didn't cry....but I couldn't quit shaking."

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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