Miss Dixie contestants explore diverse platforms

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To kick off Dixie State University’s Homecoming Week, Miss Dixie Kelby Morrison will be handing off her title and crowning one of the 18 contestants in this year’s Miss Dixie Pageant. 

Looking beyond the makeup, glamour and varying outfit changes, each contestant is required to represent a platform of their choosing. When Miss Dixie is crowned, she vows to represent her pageant platform, which focuses on a cause she wants to bring awareness to, raise money, or implement a program she has created that will help address the problem. 

“You are More”
Ella Barlow, a sophomore biology major from Eagle Mountain, was a driven runner and workout enthusiast, but when she began struggling to execute everyday activities, her life took a dramatic turn. Last year, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and a spinal fusion disorder.

“It started with just my hands [feeling] achy and my knees were achy, but I was lifting all the time so I figured I was just sore,” Barlow said. “Then it started to move throughout my body; eventually I felt like I was living in an 80-year-old woman’s body where I couldn’t do anything. Having to ask for help to button your pants is really embarrassing, and not being able to do [that] was debilitating for me.”

Aside from battling physical impairment, she also developed a skewed image of who she thought she was. 

“Before I was diagnosed and started feeling the symptoms, I was really outgoing, confident; I felt pretty and I felt like I knew who I was,” Barlow said.

Although there is no cure, Barlow is now under treatment to keep her symptoms at bay. With her physical abilities in order, being able to participate in the Miss Dixie Pageant last year gave her the strength to realize she is still that confident person who is capable of doing anything, no matter the obstacles she faces. 

Overcoming this experience also inspired her platform, “You are More.” 

“It focuses on not necessarily self-esteem, but taking the things you feel are holding you back and using those things to propel you forward,” Barlow said.”I stuck it out with the treatment that I was given, and I now use that as an experience to push me forward to know I am more than my disorder, so I want to help other people and pull them through whatever they’re going through.”

“Out of Darkness, Shedding Light on Suicide Awareness”
Cassidy Tippets, a senior business administration major from Mapleton, said several of her friends have confided to her admitting that she has saved them from committing suicide, which inspired her platform, “Out of Darkness, Shedding Light on Suicide Awareness.” Her platform centers around educating people about the warning signs and the right precautions to take for those who are feeling suicidal.

Because of her passion to promote suicide awareness, she is also involved with the Hope Squad and is currently in the process of running similar projects on campus. 

“Since this year has been the most suicides [DSU has] had, we want to be able to take a stance before it gets bigger and help students realize their mental health is the most important thing,” Tippets said. “There is always someone here for them.”

“Catch My Wave: The Ripple Effect of Service”
Kodi McKinlay, a freshman biology major from Aurora, is a two-time recipient of The President’s Volunteer Service Award, which is given to those who dedicated over 250 hours of volunteer work within a year. She hopes to implement this spirit of volunteerism at DSU with her platform, “Catch My Wave: The Ripple Effect of Service.”

“The ripple effect is a concept where small changes in one state can lead to exponential changes in another,” McKinlay said. “The idea behind my platform is that small acts of service will lead to thousands of hours of volunteerism.”

By working with Dixie State University’s Student Association Service Branch, she wants to establish the “Quest for 100,000 Hours” where students will log hours and try to reach 100,000 hours of service as a university.

“Anywhere They Go: Supporting Our Troops and Veterans”
McKenna Hodge, a sophomore theater major from Hurricane, has partnered with American Legion Post 100 and Post 190, Adopt a Soldier, Operation Gratitude and a local Vietnam chapter to shed light on her platform, “Anywhere They Go: Supporting Our Troops and Veterans.” She wants students to share her passion by also getting involved and dedicating their time to the cause.

“I do my platform because I feel like our troops and veterans don’t have the support they need and deserve,” Hodge said. “We are so, so blessed [to have] such a beautiful campus and to be gaining the education that we do, but a lot of us don’t realize is people fought for that and people are still fighting.”

Hodge participates in a series of different service projects to help U.S. veterans and soldiers and has dedicated over 3,000 hours to her platform. 

“My platform is a lifestyle for me now,” Hodge said. “I think a lot of girls, when they go through the Miss America Organization, adapt to that because you have to care about it so much because it becomes your life.”