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SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 2005
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Miss Alabama says chores, dance, pageantry teach discipline

By Patrice Stewart
DAILY Staff Writer

pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Miss Alabama Alexa Jones' advice to young women sounds a lot like what they hear from their parents — but they are more likely to listen to her.

"Work hard in school, make good decisions, and get involved in extracurricular activities and community service without overextending yourself," she told daughters and granddaughters attending the Kiwanis Club of Decatur's annual Father-Daughter Day.

"I always heard all that while I was in school, but it's true."

Jones, 24, a 2003 Birmingham-Southern College graduate in English and art, was crowned Miss Alabama in June. She put studying for a master's degree in art history at The University of Alabama at Birmingham on hold for a year while she travels and speaks (a paying job) and competes for the Miss America title.

The ballet dancer practices daily and also works out with a trainer at a gym. "I started dancing when I was 4, and I loved dancing," she said. But her parents made it clear that if she hadn't done her chores, she would have to skip dancing.

She learned discipline, goal setting, time commitment and confidence through dancing and pageant competitions, Jones said.

She said she grew up in Andalusia as a tomboy who was urged to enter the local Junior Miss program, and she was surprised when she won. Then at the state Junior Miss competition, she won a $10,000 talent scholarship from Birmingham-Southern. She had planned to attend The University of Alabama because her parents are alumni "and it was all about Crimson Tide at our house," but the scholarship changed her mind.

As a "clueless" 18-year-old, she entered her first Miss Alabama preliminary and was selected first runner-up for Miss Leeds Area, so then she decided to enter whatever pageant was next. That was Miss Covered Bridge during the Blount County festival, she said. She won, "and to this day some people at Birmingham-Southern still call me 'Covered Bridge.' "

She chose arts education, "something close to my heart," for her platform and created the 501C3 Renaissance Foundation of Alabama Inc. to help fund supplies and arts education for teachers. "That opened a lot of doors for me," said Jones, who got an internship with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as with the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The June pageant was her sixth time to compete at Miss Alabama. "That taught me perseverance," she said. "I think about it as an opportunity, rather than a competition."

Jones said pageants helped pay for college for herself and many others, and the Miss America organization is one of the top three groups in the country in scholarship money.

"I received $13,000 in scholarships this year and $26,000 over the last six years," she said. "I'm thankful, and my parents are even more thankful — it really helps pay for your education."

The 50 Miss America preliminary pageants in Alabama this year awarded $4 million in in-kind scholarships and more than $400,000 in cash scholarships.

The Miss America organization awarded more than $45 million in cash scholarships nationwide, making it the largest source of scholarships in the world for women.

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