Plenty of Panther pageantry

Published 4:04 pm Sunday, January 31, 2010

As if Pelham High School alum, Miss Alabama Liz Cochran, hasn’t been in the news enough lately, last week Pelham was all about pageants again.

The high school’s annual Miss PHS pageant took place with Senior Kelsey Dewberry capturing the title of Miss PHS 2010. Pelham alum, Tyler Watts, emceed the event.

Many teachers at PHS help with the pageant because it is an enormous undertaking. Faculty directors for Miss PHS this year were Jennifer Russell and Jennifer Rockett. Rockett, a 1994 graduate of PHS, now teaches there.

Rockett, who has also worked as a wedding director, said, “I love directing pageants and weddings. We had 49 girls in the pageant this year, and that’s an increase from only 30 participants last year.”

At the pageant, seeing the students in their finery is great fun. My normally pony-tailed, blue-jeaned female students are difficult to recognize in their sequins. The escorts seem unfamiliar in their tuxes as well.

“My mom wanted me to be in the pageant because she felt I should move out of my comfort zone and try something new,” said Junior Anna Smith.

The Miss PHS pageant definitely moves teenagers beyond their comfort zones.

Contestants attend practices and undergo a brief interview with the judges on the morning of the pageant. Finally, the Top 10 candidates answer an on-stage question pulled from a list that the candidates see for the first time on the day of the pageant.

PHS teachers nominate male students to serve as pageant escorts, which allows some of our boys to be on stage also. And, of course, many of the students attend the event to cheer for their friends. Even the escorts received some cheers of friendly support this year.

“I tell the students that being a part of the pageant is a great way to confront shyness and stage fright,” Rockett said. “For the girls, the interviews and on-stage questions are a challenge, but being experienced with interviewing is an essential life skill.”

Our pageant doesn’t offer scholarship money; however, it does afford valuable life experience. Top-10-finalist Nakia Carter was asked the question, “What makes your education at Pelham High School unique?”

“PHS not only focuses on our education. This school also cares about equipping us to be leaders – and that makes PHS not just a high school, but also a learning center for life,” Carter said.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at