USM Graduate Earns Mrs. Mississippi Title
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 01:33pm | By: David Tisdale
As the new Mrs. Mississippi®, Oak Grove High School dance teacher and University of Southern Mississippi (USM) alumna Sarah Williams hopes she is an inspiration for her students, co-workers and all women to “chase their dreams, do scary-fun things, and be the best version of themselves.”
Williams, a University of Southern Mississippi (USM) alumna, won the title Oct. 4 in her first time to compete in a pageant.
“I’m absolutely honored to be named Mrs. Mississippi® for 2020,” Williams said. “For one year, I am able to represent and speak on behalf of the amazing married women in our great state.
“I have not participated in a pageant before, but I’m always seeking ways to grow as an individual, to be encouraged by other strong, passionate women, and to share my own testimony in hopes it can encourage others as well. Being able to spend the weekend (of the pageant) with a diverse group of women -- wives, mothers, grandmothers, career women and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds -- was an incredible experience I’ll cherish forever.”
According to Mrs. Mississippi® Pageant guidelines, contestants must be at least 18 years of age, married, a resident of Mississippi, and of good moral character. Competition categories include personal interview, beauty, fitness wear, and evening gown.
There no national title to compete for following the Mrs. Mississippi® Pageant. “Instead, the directors are very passionate about the reigning Mrs. Mississippi being able to spend more time speaking and making special appearances representing the state, rather than spending months preparing for a national pageant,” Williams said. “This is a very important element to me. We all know time flies in the blink of an eye, so I want to soak up every minute of this experience and use every opportunity available to make Mississippi proud.”
A native of Hattiesburg, Williams is also a graduate of Oak Grove High School, where she developed a dance education curriculum after returning to begin her teaching career. The former New Orleans Saintsation and assistant coach for the USM Dance Team, the Southern Misses, also teaches aspiring dancers at DanceSouth dance studio and volunteers her time for organizations such as the Mississippi Dance Leader Alliance, Embrace Grace, and as an ambassador for Hope Clinic of Hattiesburg.
USM holds a special place in Williams’ heart, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in dance education and a master’s degree in education administration and supervision. In the spring of 2020, she accepted a position on USM’s Partnership for the Arts Governing Board as a Dance Chair, promoting all things movement-art related; she also serves on USM’s School of Performing and Visual Arts Advisory Board. Earlier this year, she was honored with a USM AIM (Arts Institute of Mississippi) Award, which recognizes high school-level arts teachers for exemplary achievements in arts education throughout the state.
“Receiving my BFA through the USM Dance Department and later earning a master’s degree
really began my path of dreams for my career and future. I couldn’t have asked for
a better educational experience,” Williams said. “The most important aspect that truly
grew me, not just educationally but as an individual, was the support of my professors
and the staff. I’ll forever cherish the teachers who invested in me, as well as my
daughter, because I was a single mother at the time. We were cared for, loved, and
still encouraged and supported after I graduated.
“I pray the work I do while holding the Mrs. Mississippi title and with my non-profit organizations will continue serving the growth of my alma mater- To The Top!”
Julie Hammond, one of Williams’ professors at USM, said she was “dedicated to every facet of her training as an artist and her studies as a student.”
“More than anything, Sarah is a bright light who helps others to shine just as much. Her altruistic intentions and service permeate all she does in both her personal and professional life,” Hammond said. “In this way, she is just as impressive as a person as she is in her many accomplishments. In my opinion, and in my experience, I have seen few young women do so much so well, and impact so many.”
Williams is available for speaking engagements. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.