Miss DSU 2019 Thanks Her School for Its Support

By Lizzie Woodard | July 18, 2019 | Why do you Give testimonials

Without scholarships, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have at Delta State University.

I came to Delta State from Mount Dora, Fla., as a freshman in 2015 and received a scholarship to be on the swim team. I had been recruited during my senior year at Eustis High School. Team MVP as a junior and team captain as a senior, I was excited to swim the breaststroke at the NCAA Division II collegiate level. But halfway through my first swim season, I was involved in a car accident. I was rear-ended at a red light and my car was totaled. Worse, I suffered a concussion and permanent nerve damage. I toughed out the rest of the season; however, the injury ended my swimming career—and my scholarship.

DSU Swim Team

Although devastated, I knew Delta State was the place for me. I liked the small classroom size and the hometown feel. I returned in fall 2016 as a sophomore, went through formal recruitment, and found a new home in Tri Delta Sorority. Greek life was a blast. Tri Delta became my new team.

However, those fun times were short-lived. Second semester sophomore year, I had to start working my way through college due to family issues. I’m the oldest of five children, and my mom stays at home. My parents felt that I should fend for myself. Despite working part-time jobs such as lifeguarding, teaching swim lessons, and providing childcare, I discovered that my bills mounted. I decided it was more financially efficient to take heavier credit hours and graduate early rather than pay for two more years of classes. That summer, I worked five-part time jobs, adding teaching fitness classes and filing paperwork to my schedule, to save enough money for a down payment on a Cleveland apartment—while also paying for two summer classes. Money was so tight that I didn’t even have a microwave or Wi-Fi in my apartment. All I had were a mattress on the floor and a few pieces of furniture donated by a friend. All this as a 19-year-old.

Fall 2017 and spring 2018, I took 22-25 credit hours on campus—more than a traditional load. I also maintained four part-time jobs, lifeguarding and teaching fitness classes. Life was hard. I had to go inactive in my sorority because I could not afford the dues. I never had time to play intramurals. There was zero time for a social life. And the stress compelled me to seek regular medical attention.

Problems compounded summer 2018. Two part-time jobs, a summer class, and a full-time unpaid internship in fitness and wellness meant my week ran 60 to 70 hours long. Plus, I was still being treated for my medical issues.

Somehow, I managed to graduate in August 2018 in three years with a B.S. in health, physical, education, and recreation (HPER), with a concentration in exercise science.  

The previous spring semester, I had been preliminarily accepted into Delta State’s M.Ed. HPER program, but I had no idea how I would manage graduate school. I could do nothing but trust that God would provide. And oh, He did! I was hired as a graduate assistant for the Student Success Center, helping student-athletes with whatever they needed. The G.A. position included a scholarship that covered my full tuition as well as some of the cost of books. I “only” worked two-part time jobs as a fitness coach for 20 hours a week cumulatively to cover living expenses.

But I underestimated the time commitment a master’s degree requires. I soon was stretched too thin again and found myself having to call in sick more and more. This put a strain on my co-workers and bosses and made me feel unreliable. I debated dropping out and moving back home with my parents.

In October 2018, Bevin Lamb, administrative assistant to the vice president of student affairs, suggested I compete in the Miss Delta State University Pageant, which she oversees, because the winner receives a $2,600 scholarship, plus other incentives and sponsorships. I pooled every resource to buy a dress. I sang Loren Allred’s “Never Enough” and adopted body image 3-D as my platform. Through the grace of God, I won!

Being Miss Delta State University has been incredible. Winning this title has taught me to have more respect for myself and made me grow as a young woman. The support and sponsorships not only from Delta State, but also from the city of Cleveland, have been overwhelming. I can honestly say being Miss Delta State University has made me fall in love with the Delta all over again.

In fact, at the Miss Mississippi 2019 Pageant, I won the Miss America Academic Scholarship and the People’s Choice Award Scholarship, cumulatively worth $3,000. I would not have won them without the grounding I had received from Delta State.

I am not only honored to represent Delta State but also grateful for the opportunities Delta State has given me. I now work only one part-time job, coaching fitness classes in downtown Cleveland a few hours a week. Without the graduate assistant position and the Miss DSU scholarship, I never would have made it this far. I and my whole family will forever be grateful for everything Delta State has done for me. Thank you, DSU.

By: Chesney Mardis ’18, Miss DSU 2019, and a master’s student in Delta State’s M.Ed. Health, Physical Education, and Recruitment Division.