Memories of scholarship seeking

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Here’s a scholarship contest. You’ll win enough money for your first year of college,” said Fran Taylor, my teacher and cheer sponsor.

“What’s the contest?” I asked. I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t want to burden my parents. With one brother in college and another brother three years younger, I’d entered my senior year of high school fearfully. Attending college seemed impossible.

Former Pelham High School teacher Fran Taylor is influencing futures today as the director of the Career and Vocation Center at Huntingdon College. (Contributed)

“It’s called Junior Miss,” Mrs. Taylor said. “You’re judged on grades, an essay, poise, self-expression and a 90-second talent.”

My eyes fell. Like most of the scholarships I’d found, this one seemed impossible.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Mrs. Taylor,” I answered, “I don’t have a talent. I’m not sure what poise is-which probably means I don’t have any.”

“You’ve got poise,” she said. “You’re a good gymnast. We’ll help you work up a routine. You have to be a senior to do this. You’re our only senior cheerleader.”

Mrs. Taylor’s energy propelled me. In those days, Shelby County Junior Miss took place between football and basketball season. Junior Miss became our November excitement.

One cheerleader loaned me a dress. Another found a costume for my talent. Mrs. Taylor and the girls coached me through a gymnastics routine.

I went to evening rehearsals for two weeks. Suddenly, I was competing in Shelby County’s Junior Miss-and Mrs. Taylor’s possibility became a reality. I didn’t win, but I won enough money to finance my first year of college. More importantly, I discovered a belief in my own possibilities that is still with me today.

Thanks to great teachers, an organization that supports young women and my hard-working parents, I am a college graduate and a teacher. Shelby County Junior Miss is now called Distinguished Young Women of Shelby County. I call it the organization that changed the direction of my life.

At my son’s Huntingdon College orientation, I ran into Fran Taylor. She is the new director for Huntingdon’s Career and Vocation Center. As another school year begins, my purpose is renewed. I’m called to pay forward the blessings I’ve received.