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Miss University of Southern Mississippi Ready for State Pageant

Date 7-18-06

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 classes.

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 said.

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).

July 18, 2006 11:22 AM

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