In 2002, I created an organization that would produce a preliminary competition to the Miss Michigan and Miss America competitions. This January, the Miss Spirit of the State Scholarship Program celebrates a decade of sisterhood. Throughout the years, we’ve awarded more than $15,000 in scholarships and allowed a platform for young women to share their academic aspirations, commitment to community service, and appreciate for the arts. This month, I opened my home to Stellafly, and introduced photographer Terry Johnston to our current Miss Spirit of the State, Mekeisha Alcock. Though Mekeisha attends Eastern Michigan University and is from Lenawee County, Grand Rapids has become her second home in 2011 as she’s represented the Miss Spirit of the State Scholarship Program. These photos capture the legacy and history of the Spirit program and show Mekeisha in her home away from home. In less than two weeks, Mekeisha will pass on her title to the new Miss Spirit of the State. Below, she introduces you to a corner of her world. Get to know her, her passion, and her surprising gift. — Noddea Skidmore
I had prepared something else for you to read today, but unfortunately I have something that is lying heavy on my heart at the moment and I feel that I need to share it with someone. So, I thank you in advance for allowing me to share this story with you…
I am a teacher at a preschool, where I honestly love my job and adore my kids even more. I am blessed with the opportunity of teaching two year olds, who I refer to as my “lil’ rugrats.” These kids, just like any child are the types of children who have the ability to instantly brighten your day! Throughout the past year I have gained a special bond with each one of them and I truly cherish each moment that I have with them. Every day I go into work knowing that I won’t only be teaching them something, but they will surely be teaching me something.
When not working I attend Eastern Michigan University where I am studying within the School of Social Work. Serving others is a huge passion of mine, and I have committed the past five years of my life to serving others; most specifically within the area of sexual aggression prevention and awareness. Through my work I have spoken to thousands of people on this issue, from elementary classrooms and college venues to the floor of the Capitol Building in Lansing, MI. I have raised thousands of dollars for the cause and founded a program that raises awareness of sexual aggression most specifically with prom night safety; I look forward to one day turning this program into a non-profit. I’ve been interviewed by all forms of media, and have taken my advocacy beyond a local form and to a state and national level.
I’ve always thought that I was doing it all, I was doing all that I could to serve those suffering from this epidemic of sexual aggression. And all this time, I’ve been wrong. I was told just recently that one of the children who are in my classroom is living within a sexual assault and domestic violence safe house. They are living there with their mother who just recently left their severely physical abusive father. I was oblivious to this situation prior to being told, and you can imagine how it hit me when I was informed. I have stated before that I adore my kids, and they mean the world to me. And to think about what is going through the mind of a two year old as they watch their mother being physically beaten is beyond anything I can fathom. Furthermore, I am left with a vile taste in my mouth when I think about the statistics that come along with fact that many abusive spouses also abuse their children.
I suppose it’s also only fair to tell you that I have a very close personal connection with this issue. I myself am a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. I was the victim of a severely abusive relationship along with the target of sexual assault. I know firsthand what it’s like to be in the shoes of a “victim.” I do not want your pity, for I am no longer a victim; I AM A SURVIVOR! It has been through my steps towards survivorship that I began the extensive service work that I have accomplished throughout the past few years. My future career goals also encircle this cause as I look forward to one day opening a sexual assault and domestic violence safe house.
With this recent tragic information I’ve been told regarding one of my students I find myself heartbroken to think that all this time I have been working so hard to make leeway with this issue throughout our nation, when in all actuality there was a severe issue right under my nose. Now, I know I’m no super woman and I have no cape that I can simply put on that will allow me to quickly put an end to this issue. However, this child is my tool. This child (and their family) was brought into my life to remind me of the severity and the realness of this issue.
Sexual aggression is not a light topic, it’s everywhere. It is a modern day epidemic that we must battle just as we would any other disease that we are being faced with throughout America. This issue is pervasive, it can happen anywhere from the cradle to the nursing home. That’s why it’s extremely important that we see that our attention to the matter is needed. I come to you today and ask that whatever your “work” might be, live it out. Just because you aren’t raising thousands of dollars for a charity, or speaking on a national platform, know that the one child you take the hand of, or the one person you chat with in passing may be the person who needs it the most at the moment.
In closing, I came to you today with something heavy on my heart. Take it as you may, but I do truly hope that I will have the opportunity to chat with you again through this blog. Throughout the next month I look forward to sharing with you the happenings occurring during my last month of reign as Miss Spirit of the State. The Miss Spirit of the State program is a preliminary in the Miss America Organization. This crown has brought me the opportunity to not only compete for the title of Miss Michigan (where I placed fourth runner-up), but it has more importantly allowed me to widen my reach as I continue to serve others. In a few short weeks I will be relinquishing my title as Miss Spirit of the State and I will be passing the honor on to another young woman who will carry on the legacy.
All my LOVE and BLESSINGS,
Miss Spirit of the State 2010