Haley Williams plans to spend the next year working with kids so they know they can overcome heartache, tragedy and adversity.
She should know. As a youngster, she lost her father to a heart attack. Saturday night, she was crowned Miss Michigan at the Fraunthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon.
Williams, a 2011 Saline High School graduate who qualified for the pageant when she was crowned Miss Saginaw County, beat 32 other contestants to win the crown and the $10,000 scholarship. She will compete in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in September.
“This is such a blessing and an honor. I’m so excited. I’ve been working for this for a long time. I feel so blessed that the judges felt I can do this job and represent this program and this state,” said Williams, daughter of Christine Williams. “I am so honored they put this great program in my hands, and I’m going to be focused on representing this program as best I can.”
Williams, who studies public relations and communications at the University of Alabama, had already scored two major victories before the final night of the pageant. Friday, she won the swimsuit portion of the pageant and a $250 scholarship. But the big victory came on Thursday, when Williams put 14 years of Saline Twirlette experience on display with a dance and baton act.
“I was so happy I was able to perform well and have it recognize. The Saline Twirlettes have been such a supportive part of my life and I wanted to show everyone what the Saline Twirlettes were all about,” Williams said.
Williams had words of thanks for her coach, Susan Usher.
“She taught me so much, and not just about twirling. She taught me how to be confident. She’s the reason I have this crown on my head,” Williams said. “She has been one of the biggest influences in my life.”
Contestants were judged on a 10-point scale in five areas: Talent, swimwear, evening gown, interview and on-stage question.
Williams will begin preparations for the Miss America pageant and she’ll use the Miss Michigan crown to work on her platform: “Through a Child’s Eyes: Conquering Childhood Grief.”
“My platform is all about giving hope to kids facing adversity. I want children to understand they can overcome tragedy. They can overcome grief and become successful and happy adults,” Williams said.
She’ll also work with the Miss America organization to raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Miracle Network.
Williams’ victory came in her first Miss Michigan pageant. In fact, all of the Miss Michigan finalists but Williams were in last year’s pageant.
Winning on a first try is nothing new for Williams, who also won Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen pageant in 2009 – in her first try.