The Cleveland Kiwanis Club had a visitor from state royalty this week. Miss Tennessee, Christine Williamson, stopped by to talk about The Children's Miracle Network, The Alzheimers Association, …
The Cleveland Kiwanis Club had a visitor from state royalty this week. Miss Tennessee, Christine Williamson, stopped by to talk about The Children's Miracle Network, The Alzheimers Association, and being the governor's spokesperson for Character Education.
The personable University of Mississippi graduate had a twofold purpose in coming to Cleveland.
As a part of her goal to visit all of Tennessee's school systems this year, she began her day with a stop at Bradley County's Parkview Elementary School and Goal Academy.
She was to venture on to schools in Chattanooga during the afternoon. Williamson told the Kiwanians, "I only have 90 (schools) to go!"
Miss Tennessee grew up in the Memphis area, attending a private school in Collierville.
Now a student at the University of Tennessee-Chattanoga, working on her masters in business administration and business analytics, she is passionate about the worth-while causes she supports, and has a strong affection for the Alzheimers Association, and its research for a cure.
"I have lost four family members to this devastating disease," she said. "I was only 8 when my grandfather was diagnosed. I helped my mom care for him for 11 years, watching the lengthy demise of someone I loved. It was very hard, when he didn't know my name."
She added she and her sister, Christal, didn't actually know what Alzheimer's was, and didn't know how to spell it.
"As a National Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association, I have lobbied U.S. and state congressional leaders for three years for Alzheimer's initiatives. I have raised $25,000 for the Alzheimer's Association, just a small help for the 5.7 million Americans and their caregivers who fight the nation's most expensive disease," Williamson added.
The reigning Miss Tennessee comes from a family steeped in pageantry She said this past year was her fifth time in the Miss Tennessee competition. She was also selected Miss Chattanooga, before the state competition.
Sister Christal, a student at UT-Knoxville, won the Miss Collierville Outstanding Teen title in 2015, and her mother, Carol, represented Memphis in the Miss Tennessee-America competition in 2015. Collectively, the three have competed in more than 30 pageants.
Christine said she and her sister grew up watching Miss America pageants in the family's living room.
She went on to represent Tennessee in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City in September. She said it was a wonderful experience, adding she was happy to return home, and continue her year-long responsibilities as Miss Tennessee.
Williamson has received more than $47,000 in scholarships, which she is using to continue her education.
She graduated debt-free from the University of Mississippi, with a broadcast journalism degree. She is now pursuing a masters at UT-C, and plans to go on and work on her doctorate.
She lives in Chattanooga, and along with her responsibilities as Miss Tennessee, she is watching a family's five puppies. "I'm a dog lover, and a lot of people in Chattanooga know me as the girl who walks the beagles," she laughed.
Christine also had heart-warming stories about being the governor's spokesperson for Character Education, and being a goodwill ambassador for Children's Network hospitals.
She emphasized she attempts to provide a feeling of care and hope to children and the elderly. She has a lesson of mutual respect in her Character Education messages to students across the state.
"I talk to them about friends, and how to treat other kids," she said. "I also tell them to respect themselves."
Miss Tennessee said it is amazing how many children have Facebook and Instagram accounts today. "They have so many choices," she emphasized.
Christine added she normally carries two Miss Tennessee crowns on her travels. She told of a 2-year-old, Aria, she met at Erlanger's Children's Hospital, who was taking her first series of chemo. "She grabbed one of the crowns, put it on (upside down), and ran off," she said in explaining a little bit joy to a youngster facing a trying and difficult situation.
"Visiting the kids in the hospital is one of my favorite parts (of this job)," she added. "You get coughed on, spit on and thrown up on, but that's al right. It'll wash off!"
In her role as an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association, she is also a published author.
Christine has written a book titled "Memories Matter," a tale about a purple elephant named Ellie.
"I felt there was a huge need for a book that explains Alzheimer's to children," she said. She added the book was a labor love to honor her grandfather. Proceeds from book sales go to the Alzheimer's Association.
Miss Tennessee continued her talk by pointing out that life is not always positive.
She said she has had her challenges. "In the eighth, ninth and 10th grades, I couldn't pass math," she said. "They then found out I couldn't calculate numbers, a rare malady."
"The best part of being Miss Tennessee, is visiting with people, especially the kids and the elderly," said Christine Williamson. She said she wouldn't mind if she continued to be Miss Tennessee. "They probably won't allow that!," she added.
She closed her discussion by urging Kiwanis member to assist the Alzheimer's Association, and join the Alzheimer's walks this year, in Cleveland and/or Chattanooga.
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