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Miss Virginia urges students to be ‘best, healthiest self’
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Rosemary Willis (left), Miss Virginia 2012, looks on as Victoria Evonna-Blair “Blair” Oakley, the 2013 Miss Roanoke Outstanding Preteen, speaks about bullying Thursday at Patrick Henry Elementary School. Willis came to PHES to share her story with the students and to talk about the importance of good decision making. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)

Friday, May 17, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A hot pink Kia rolled up to Patrick Henry Elementary School (PHES) Thursday, and out stepped Miss Virginia.

Rosemary Willis, Miss Virginia 2012, came to PHES to share her story with the students and to talk about the importance of good decision making.

Willis’ Miss Virginia platform is “get moving today for a healthier tomorrow,” according to her website.

She told the students that it is important to remain active and eat right in order to be “your best, healthiest self.”

According to Willis, while she was in high school, her “life was going really well.” She was an athlete and a straight-A student.

During her senior year, however, she was in an accident and suffered a brain injury. It caused memory loss, and the doctors told her that to help her heal, she “couldn’t go out and run for a whole year,” putting the brakes on her athletic career, Willis said.

“It was a curveball life threw me,” she said.

Willis said when she began attending the College of William & Mary, she made poor grades because she had a hard time remembering information, and she fell in with a group of people who were bad influences on her.

“My identity was an athlete,” she said, and she felt like she had lost that identity.

However, Willis said, with the help of her doctors, she found safe exercises that she could do without risking further injury, and she began eating healthier foods. The changes “helped me feel confident again,” she said.

“I decided I was going to graduate from college no matter how long it took me,” she added. She now is a junior, majoring in government and minoring in kinesiology.

Willis told the students that they need to “do the right thing, even when no one is looking,” and she presented her three steps to a healthy, happy life: respect yourself, respect your future self and respect each other.

During the presentation, Willis was joined on stage by Victoria Evonna-Blair “Blair” Oakley, the 2013 Miss Roanoke Outstanding Preteen. She is a fifth-grader at John Redd Smith Elementary School in Collinsville.

Oakley’s pageant platform was anti-bullying, and she spoke to the students about the importance of informing a parent or teacher if they are the victim of a bully.

Willis also invited several students on stage to demonstrate different kinds of healthy exercises, and she opened the floor up to questions from curious students.

The students asked for her age (22), her hometown (Chesapeake) and if she was married (she has a boyfriend; you have to be single, in college and under 24 to qualify for the Miss Virginia pageant).

At the end of the presentation, Patrick Henry Elementary School Principal Zebedee Talley Jr. said that he wouldn’t be surprised if a future Miss Virginia was sitting in the audience.

“We live in a time where everything is possible,” Talley said.


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