The first Indian American to be crowned Miss America urged four girls from the YWCA Central Alabama’s Family Resource Center to always pursue their dreams.
“We live in a country where anything is possible, regardless of your race, your background or where you came from,” Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, told the girls during a recent visit to Birmingham when she spoke at UAB. “The most important thing is to find what you love and everything else will follow. Follow your passion and it will all fall into place.”
The girls, who participate in the after-school activities at the Family Resource Center in Woodlawn, were invited to meet Davuluri by Heath Mixon, associate director of programming for ArtPlay, the educational and outreach initiative of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. Mixon provides art classes for the Woodlawn community at the FRC through the ArtReach program.
“It was so exciting and so much fun,” Michala, a fifth-grader, said of the experience. “She remembered all of our names.” The girls wanted lots of details from Davuluri, including her favorite color (pink), what she wanted to be when she was a little girl (a doctor) and how she felt the night she won (shocked).
“I grew up watching Miss America believing I could never be in this role because I didn’t fit the stereotype,” said Davuluri, whose platform is Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency. “It was about reaching that young girl who was watching the night I won thinking, ‘This year, Miss America looks like me.’”
DeShunn Wilkerson, coordinator of the FRC, said she was thrilled that the girls, who are in the fifth and sixth grades, got the opportunity to attend the lecture and meet Davuluri. “It was such a wonderful opportunity for the students in our program to get to experience a culture that’s different from their own,” she said. “They got to travel outside of the Woodlawn community, visit a college campus and enjoy an Indian dance performance. It’s an experience they’ll never forget.”
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