Friday, 16 October 2009 09:57
The word pageant better suited this competition 45 years ago when the first UF Homecoming pageant was held. There were only female participants, and winners were chosen based on looks and stage performance. Today however, the word gives people the wrong impression about what the homecoming court is all about. Heather Hare, director of this year’s pageant, says the pageant is more of a recognition of the leadership that the students provide to UF. “I spent hours reading their resumes and they are all so amazing,” she says.
Story and Photos by Timothy Carswell
After interviewing all six finalists, it was clear that the participants were not only talented leaders at UF, but they are well-rounded, philanthropic public servants. To participate in the pageant, the students had to be sponsored by a group. Some finalists were sponsored by on-campus organizations such as fraternities and sororities, others were sponsored by off-campus organizations such as Teach For America.
Each participant had to learn a dance and answer questions onstage. Judges were respected professors and members of the community. They scored each participant based mostly on their resumes, leadership at UF and other community service.
Ashton Charles is one of the three female finalists. We met her in her office where she carries out her Student Government duties after recently being elected Senate president. In addition to devoting a large amount of time to SG, Ashton is also involved in Florida Blue Key, Gator Growl and Alpha Delta Pi. Her favorite part of the pageant is being able to have fun with the people that she has met while serving at UF and within the community over the last four years.
Brock Hankins entered the pageant because he wanted to get word out about his sponsoring organization, Teach for America. Brock believes the greatest injustice we face today is the inequality in education throughout the country, and he plans to serve for two years in Teach for America when he graduates. In addition to being involved on campus with TFA, he also serves Sigma Phi Epsilon as fraternity president. Brock has also served as a counselor at Florida Camps for Children and Youth with Diabetes and also as an EMT with Alachua County.
Kristen Gillis is another impressive women. As current president of her sorority Delta Gamma, Kristen feels that see has an opportunity to help the young members grow as women as older sisters helped her. She is involved in Florida Cicerones, Florida Blue Key, Dance Marathon and was a previous Homecoming Pageant director. Kristen plans to become a hospital administrator, where she can make a large impact on community health by influencing local healthcare policy. She loves to have fun and her favorite part of the pageant was when the announcer said, “Kristen is ready to get rowdy!”
Anthony Fowler is a fourth-year student studying telecommunication, with a minor in organizational leadership for non-profits. On campus he has served as a Preview staff member, a resident assistant in Hume Hall, president of Florida Cicerones/SAA, producer and anchor for AM850 News & Sports, and a participant on Recurso’s International Service Trip to Nicaragua. “My favorite part of the pageant was meeting all the incredible people whom I have been able to stay friends with. It was also pretty funny watching us, the uncoordinated guys, trying to lean a dance to ‘Macho Man’,” he says.
Laura Beard is no newcomer to the stage. Earlier this year, she won Ms. Gainesville and competed for Ms. Florida. For her, entering this pageant was "not just about being a leader on campus but also a servant in the community.” She has been involved in many facets of university life - as a J. Wayne Reitz scholar, Student Government Cabinet chairperson, Florida Cicerone, Freshman Leadership Council director, Alpha Delta Pi Alumnae Affairs chairperson, UF Honors Program graduate and a member of Florida Blue Key. After graduation, Laura plans to obtain a juris doctor degree from UF and become a judge.
Chris Emmanuel was sponsored by his fraternity Kappa Sigma. Chris says it is an honor to be involved with the pageant, and the experience brought him an opportunity to have fun with the friends he made over the last three years. He has been involved in SG, Florida Cicerones and Gator Growl as director. After graduation, he is considering Teach For America, after which he plans to go to law school and practice constitutional law. Chris said the worst part of the pageant was the dance. “I’m sure it was really entertaining, but I felt ridiculous,” he says.
The homecoming court winners will be announced tonight at Gator Growl.