Amazing Students

Miranda Williams

Bulldog fans are likely to recognize Miranda Williams as the feature twirler at football games. She even won a national title for her twirling prowess, but she also excelled in the classroom and community during her undergraduate career.

Hometown:

Jesup, Georgia

High School:

Wayne County High School

Degree objective:

Bachelor of Science in Education, Early Childhood Education

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

While attending the University of Georgia, I have managed to cultivate my collegiate twirling career, interest in politics and work with education, academics, extracurricular activities and the sisterhood of Kappa Delta. When my parents dropped me off at Brumby Hall as a young freshman girl, I distinctly remember standing in the famous roundabout and saying to myself, “I will make my time at the University of Georgia the best years of my life.” I also remember repeating words spoken eloquently by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” This quote has guided me through my four years of college and has helped me set goals and reach them.

Being the UGA feature twirler for the Redcoat Marching Band surpassed every dream of mine as a little girl. As the feature twirler for the Redcoat Band, I’m usually referred to as the “fire girl.” Yes, it is real fire and it will burn you. This twirling position is among the most prestigious in the nation. I am very blessed to have reached my childhood goal of twirling for the Georgia Bulldogs. Every Saturday in Athens, and most away games, were filled with pure happiness as I led the Redcoats on to the field for pregame and halftime shows. I loved entertaining the crowd, especially our Dawg fans. I am most proud of competing as the UGA feature twirler twice on the national level. In 2016, I was awarded the title of National Collegiate Downfield Champion. This is an event where collegiate competitors across the nation demonstrate their skill level in twirling as well as their ability to entertain a crowd. Bringing that national title home to Georgia is sketched in my book of favorite memories. I also was named the first recipient of the Julie Hayes Dynasty Award. This award will travel to universities across the country with the reigning National Collegiate Downfield Champion. At the national competition at the University of Notre Dame, I also had the privilege to compete with the UGA majorettes as we sought out national titles. At the conclusion of two years at Nationals, we were awarded four national titles and the first collegiate team to receive the Mike Moore Memorial Artistic Award. 

During my senior year, I received a scholarship that is unparalleled to any award I’ve ever received during my time at UGA — the University of Georgia’s Phyllis Dance Spirit and Leadership Award. To receive this award, I was nominated by my peers for showing spirit and leadership among the UGA auxiliaries. Then, I went through an interview process with the Redcoat Marching Band directors and auxiliary coordinator. This was such a remarkable experience to be a part of. I was honored to be voted by my peers for my positivity and leadership skills, and then chosen by my band directors and auxiliary coordinator to be granted this award. I will cherish the moment I received that award in Sanford Stadium forever. 

Growing up in a family with a political background, it is only natural for me to favor politics. I have always had an interest in the work that is behind each elected official. I had the opportunity to be accepted into the Governor’s Internship Program. In 2016, I worked in the governor’s Office of the Chief of Staff. I worked directly with Chief of Staff Chris Riley and Gov. Deal’s executive assistant, Carrie Ashbee. One of the numerous projects we worked on was launched by Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal. We sent the book “Memories of the Mansion,” which she co-authored, to every school in the state of Georgia. This was an amazing experience, because education has a special place in my heart.

Because of my special interest in politics, I entered UGA as a political science major. During my sophomore year, I spent my extra time volunteering at a local school, Athens Christian Academy. I truly believe God sent me there with a purpose — to fill the minds of little ones with knowledge and to find my true calling. I spent numerous volunteer hours in a first-grade classroom. This is when I realized that I would change my major to early childhood education. Volunteering at this school changed my life. I realized children needed me and they also needed an advocate working for them on the federal and state level. I have also volunteered and worked at my local dance studio. I think it is crucial to pass the love for dance and baton twirling down to young students. I know how dance and baton twirling can help shape someone’s life, so I choose to help others find that passion.

Being a student at UGA, I chose to push myself and excel in academics. I am a HOPE Scholarship recipient, on the dean’s list, a recipient of UGA’s Merit Award, and a UGA Presidential Scholar.

I have been a member of the Kappa Delta Panhellenic sorority for four years. This sorority has taught me to be part of something bigger than myself and to cherish the value of friendship. While being active in my sorority, I was a part of the Kappa Delta Confidence Coalition and became an advocate for Girl Scouts of America.

The University of Georgia gave me opportunities to be the best person I could be. There was always a path leading to my next steps. UGA has truly been a blessing in my life and I owe my accomplishments and awards to this inspiring university.

Family Ties to UGA:

My family ties to UGA go back to my grandfather. He attended UGA for one of his three graduate degrees. He was at UGA when integration was becoming more prevalent nationwide and he fought for African-American students to be integrated at UGA. He was quite progressive for a time when Athens was not. He was very passionate about the civil rights movement and believed in equality for all. I believe this is where I inherited my love for diversity. I am very proud to call him “my grandfather” for the work he did for African-American citizens among many other things. My older sister went to UGA and was a majorette for the Redcoat Band for four years. Along with my sister attending UGA, two of my aunts went to UGA and speak of valuable memories. I remember my aunt telling me stories of her time at UGA. These were Herschel Walker’s glory days. She was a student when Georgia won the national football title in 1980. While she was reminiscing on her college days she stated, “I loved sitting on the train tracks and watching the game before they enclosed that part of the stadium in 1981. The ‘track people’ were some of the best fans!” She referred to Larry Munson as a legend and quoted many of his famous lines. As I spoke with her, I was thinking of the memories I will get to share about my time at UGA.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I chose to attend for many unique reasons. While I was touring schools, there was something different about how UGA carried itself among other universities. There was a sense of class mixed with sweet Southern hospitality. The first reason I chose UGA was the traditions that UGA shares with its students. Tradition is very important to UGA; it keeps us grounded in what past generations wanted to see UGA become. The unwavering traditions that stand out are having to walk around the Arch until we graduate, ringing the Chapel Bell after a big football win, and freshmen having to live in dorm rooms. Yes, dorm life was pivotal to my memories freshman year. When I was looking at universities, I knew I wanted that sense of community from the start of my time at college. Universities are huge, however you automatically have a group of friends when you walk down your hall for the very first time. Living in a shoebox is fun, if you have the right attitude!

Diversity is another reason why I chose UGA. I metaphorically refer to UGA as an enormous and healthy salad all mixed together with each piece delicately placed to start until change arises. UGA is diverse religiously, racially and politically. It takes all of our different backgrounds and unique experiences to make something worthwhile. I knew that if I went to UGA, I would be challenged in the best way possible.

Another unique reason I wanted to attend UGA was that twirling has always been a major portion of my life. I was certain the UGA feature twirler position was the most coveted twirling position in the nation. In order to become a UGA feature twirler, I had to send in film of me twirling, engage in a live audition, and go through an extensive interview process. I knew that if I pushed myself and practiced numerous hours, I would only brush that goal I had set. It would take more. I relied on God and and my hope in the future. I continued to work extremely hard and trust myself. When I was a senior in high school, I tried out for the UGA feature twirler position in Sanford Stadium. The stadium was empty, however my family and friends came to watch. I was intimidated as a young 18-year-old girl standing in the middle of the field, but I knew I had to do my best to reach my childhood dream. When I look back on that day, I do not know how I tackled this accomplishment. I thought I had done well, but it was not until the following week that the band director called with his decision. I had made it! I had conquered a huge milestone in my life. This was when I was completely sold on the University of Georgia. I knew this would be my home and I would make the Bulldog fans proud as I twirled on Saturdays in Athens.

I made the right decision when I chose to attend UGA. I will forever speak highly of this outstanding institution and always call it “home.”

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I think it’s safe to say that I have many favorite things to do on UGA’s campus. Whether it’s picnics while studying in the beautiful grass of North Campus, ringing the Chapel Bell (even though it takes all of your body weight to get it started), or taking a swim in the North Campus fountain, I have had many peaceful but exciting experiences just enjoying the day while on North Campus.

UGA’s campus is a great place to exercise. I love treating my body to a nice walk or run through the trails at the back of the intramural fields. I’m sure to always pass a friend on my way through the trails. 

Another one of my favorite things is “calling the Dawgs.” You can do this anywhere on campus and people are sure to join in. I remember a very spirited student that “called the Dawgs” on a UGA bus. It was a hot and steamy September day when the Dawgs were about to play the following weekend. People were not enthused about being crammed on a bus and headed to class. That vibrant student changed the attitude of many just by simply shouting, “Who’s that coming down the track?”

In conclusion, being UGA’s feature twirler, I have had the privilege of starting out in Sanford Stadium on the “Super G” along with Hairy Dawg to begin the pregame show and to kick off the football game. When I get out there, it is an unbelievable feeling. My stomach has millions of butterflies and my heart is pounding. The crowd is yelling for the Dawgs and all eyes are on the center of the field. It is exhilarating to know that 93,000 fans are about to watch me do what I love. I always take time to look around and take it all in. This is my favorite thing to do on the UGA campus. There is no feeling or memory greater than those special Saturdays “between the hedges.”

When I have free time, I like…

… to paint. To me, painting is one of the most beautiful ways to express yourself. A Georgia resident, Steve Penley, is my favorite artist. All of his work tells a distinct and unfamiliar story. He uses unexpected colors and somehow manages to create many beautiful images from plain white canvases. As I paint, I try to mimic his art, knowing that I have plenty of learning and practice ahead of me.

I also love to travel when I have an extended amount of free time. I believe in adventures and exploring new places. Our world and nation is full of many diverse areas. Augustine of Hippo inspired me with the quote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” In my life, I want to read as many pages of our world that I can. Experiences are one of the few things that can never be taken away from you.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… undergo brain surgery. Yes, brain surgery. The fall semester my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with Chiari 1 Malformation. This means that the tonsils in my brain were hanging down too low or were too big for my skull. The tonsils were pressing on my spinal cord. Now that I am healthy, I can jokingly say, “My brain was just too big for my skull.” The tonsils were pushing fluid down my spinal cord and creating a cyst. If a cyst grows on your spinal cord, you will most likely become paralyzed later in life. I am so blessed the doctors caught this condition early. I had my surgery early December of 2013 and was in ICU for a week. Although this sounds terrible, I solely relied on God to help me through this experience. I knew I would be OK and be much healthier in the end. During that Christmas break, I was bedridden. I rested the whole Christmas break to get well enough to begin the second semester of my freshman year. I am proud to say, I successfully made it back to school that semester and was well enough to continue twirling. Although the craziest thing I’ve ever done was not willing, I am still happy to say I survived brain surgery. That part of my life illustrated vividly that every day is not promised and we should cherish each day we are given.

My favorite place to study is…

My favorite place to study is anywhere outside with the sun shining bright and a slight breeze blowing. I like being in natural sunlight and not confined to a single desk while I’m studying.

My favorite professor is…

… Dr. Beth Tolley. She embodies everything a teacher, a leader and a person should be. She carries herself with confidence and great intellect. She has taught me the importance of reaching each child in a classroom and differentiating instruction according to their strengths. She is always a friendly and encouraging face when when you need a smile. She has also taught me how to teach children in the most effective way relying on both her research and personal experience. Another reason Dr. Tolley is my favorite is that she makes my peers and me feel appreciated for going into the teaching profession. She understands that we are not only being teachers, but nurses, mothers, fathers and many other things. She is truly invested in my growth as a teacher and person. I am proud to call her my professor.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Loris Malaguzzi. Although he passed away in 1994, he is the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach in early childhood education. Reggio Emilia schools started in Italy and are slowly making their way around the world. This type of education allows students to discover and explore rather than them feeling forced to learn. This allows time for innovation and creativity in the classroom. This type of learning varies between communities as well as classrooms. Each child has a personalized curriculum to help develop curiosity among the students.

I would choose to spend this time with Loris Malaguzzi because he truly understood children and how they think, learn and feel. He understood how each child develops and learns differently. I also agree with him on how education should be seen and valued. It should be an experience each day for each individual child rather than a monotonous routine. Children should want to go to school and see what discoveries they can find that day.

During our afternoon together, I would start by telling him “thank you” for all of the work he did on behalf of education. Next, I would tour schools in America with him. Then, we would discuss how we could improve the education system in the United States. We would talk through ideas of improvements and create policy on the federal and state level to ensure a better education for all American students.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

Personally, I do not believe failure is an option. To me, failure is an easy way of not working your hardest or not believing that you can complete the task. However, I would love to be able to play the piano. No, I do not think I would fail, however I think it would take many years of hard work and perseverance to become the pianist I would like to be.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel all around the world and learn about new cultures. I would love to see new sights and architecture from various places, while trying to make a stop by every continent and every nation I wanted to learn more about. This would be a continuous learning experience for me by being immersed in various cultures.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

My passion is education. I would love to work on education policy at the state or federal level, merging hands-on political experience with a background in education. Children are our future and deserve to have a meaningful education. Currently, our education system is in major trouble. I strongly believe that we must work together to understand children and the way children learn best, how to help children who are stuck in a vicious cycle of being uneducated, and that we must support our teachers in the most accommodating way. Teachers are the backbone of this nation.

After graduation, I plan to…

… work in the Georgia Office of the Governor as the first lady’s executive assistant. First lady Sandra Deal is a major advocate for education and our students across the state of Georgia.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… last football season. It was my last game as the UGA feature twirler in Sanford Stadium. At the end of the pregame show, the Redcoats played “The Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation” while Larry Munson’s voice spread across Sanford Stadium. At that moment, I realized my four football seasons and my twirling career had just ended in the most spectacular way possible. Tears of joy streamed down my face. I knew that I had just closed a chapter in my book of life. That was a moment when I felt the Bulldog Nation stand still and allow me to reminisce in my twirling career and my time at UGA as a student.

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