Contact Leigh Anne Wilson 601.266.6307
Hattiesburg—After months of hard work, Laura
Guiles, Miss University of Southern Mississippi, is ready to compete
in the Miss Mississippi pageant that begins Wednesday, July 19,
and concludes Saturday, July 22, at 8 p.m. in Vicksburg, Miss.
“With the help and support of my friends and family, I am very
well-prepared. Holding the title of Miss USM has given me the chance
to push myself to goals that I want to achieve, and being crowned
Miss Mississippi is a goal that I want to achieve,” Guiles said.
A junior pre-pharmacy biology major from Petal, Miss., Guiles won
the Miss University of Southern Mississippi title on Jan. 28 in
her first-ever pageant.
In addition to working on her physical fitness, talent (piano)
and interviewing skills, Guiles has also further developed her platform
to include a mentoring program for high school special education
Guiles’ platform--Love-BUDS: Love - By Understanding Differences
in the Pine Belt area -- is a high school special education program.
After working with the program her senior year at Petal High School,
Guiles wants to expand it to other schools in the Pine Belt area.
“I feel that intellectually disabled students would benefit by
friendships with people from outside special education. High school
students were chosen as mentors, and each was informed about the
special needs of his or her new friend,” Guiles said.
“Intellectually disabled people often become isolated because of
their lack of social skills; they need to become a part of mainstream
society. Love-BUDS works to form one-on-one friendships between
the two groups,” Guiles said. The end result is that the lives of
the challenged are enhanced by new friendships and socialization
opportunities. The unchallenged learn the meaning of true friendship,
compassion, and unconditional love.”
Guiles also worked closely with Mike Mitchell, assistant dean of
students, to perfect her interviewing techniques.
“It was my pleasure to work with Laura on mock interviews in preparation
for her private interview at Miss Mississippi. Her growth in this
area has been amazing and we are incredibly proud of her,” Mitchell
An active Southern Miss student, Guiles is a member of Lamda Sigma,
recipient of a USM Academic Excellence Scholarship, a USM Leadership
scholar, Dean’s List honoree, student recruiter for Eagle Connection,
and Delta Gamma scholarship director. Guiles plans to pursue a career
as a pharmacist and specialize as a pediatric pharmacist.
Mitchell also encourages fans to show support for Guiles this week
through a text messaging contest. Voters must be Cellular South
customers to participate. The contestants with the most votes will
be awarded a $2,500 viewers choice award and the use of a Cellular
South phone for one year. To cast your vote for Guiles, please text
24 to "MISS" (6477).
The pageant this year will award scholarships of $132,550 in cash
plus more than $1 million in tuition. “This is a great opportunity
for many young women, including myself, to receive scholarship money
to further our education. This pageant is a great way to improve
my overall fitness, talent, and interviewing skills, “Guiles said.
“We are hoping that Laura will bring home the title of Miss Mississippi
and continue on to Miss America to represent the state of Mississippi.
She is certainly qualified and well-deserving of the honor, “Mitchell
said. “Laura has been the ‘ultimate professional’ this year; she
is an outstanding student.”
In addition to Guiles, Southern Miss will be represented at the
pageant by five current students. They are Joanna Gaston, former
Miss USM and current Miss Southern Magnolia; Rachel Shannon, Miss
Hattiesburg; Diana Strickland, Miss Leaf River Valley; Sasha Williamson,
Miss Mississippi Coast; and Holly Lea Williams, Miss New South.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Mike Mitchell, assistant dean of students, and Laura Guiles, Miss University of Southern Mississippi, prepare recently for the Miss Mississippi pageant. The pageant will be held Saturday, July 22, at 8 p.m. in Vicksburg, Miss. (Southern Miss Photo by Jana Bryant).