As a young girl from Selma, Mary Stewart grew up attending Auburn football games and watching Miss Homecoming ceremonies, holding on to the dream that it could one day become her reality.
“I remember [as a kid] wanting so badly to be Miss Homecoming,” Stewart said.
“I never considered that would be me at some point. I’ve always been someone that really wants to get involved, especially because I come from a small town, but I didn’t ever think it would lead to this moment.”
Stewart was crowned Miss Homecoming during last week’s game against Kent State. However, she has been involved on campus since arriving on the Plains four years ago.
“I signed up for everything,” she said. “I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and then as I got older, I started to get more involved in my sorority and was trying to figure out where I could have the most impact instead of spreading myself too thin.”
Stewart currently serves as the president of her sorority, Kappa Delta. In her time as president, she said she has learned important leadership skills — skills which continued to develop during her campaign for Miss Homecoming.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that I struggle a lot with allowing others to help me out,” she said. “I think it’s really taught me that you can’t do these types of things alone, and you shouldn’t.”
Stewart’s platform for homecoming centered on Special Deliveries, an organization which focuses on strengthening families so that children are safe, healthy and ready to learn.
“Basically, what they are doing is taking in mothers who didn’t grow up in a home that was nurturing,” she said, “[mothers] who probably didn’t have the greatest parents and never knew what it was like to be loved and supported in their own home.”
She said they are taught how to be there for their children.
“I think it’s special because it’s really brave of these mothers. The fact that they’re doing that is amazing to me,” she said.
Stewart said these women, and the strength they show, serve as an inspiration to her and have helped her realize the importance of giving back to the community.
“I feel like oftentimes in Auburn when we talk about the Auburn Family, we think about the students … we forget that Lee County has been supporting us so much,” she said. “A lot of times we close our eyes to the problems that are right here in our backyard.”
She added that while Miss Homecoming currently does not have any set responsibilities, she hopes to change that during her tenure.
“It’s really exciting because I can make it my own,” she said. “I’m excited to continue to work with Special Deliveries and hopefully use Miss Homecoming as a platform to continue to talk about the issues that we have here and the way we can fight child abuse in Lee County.”
She said she is grateful for the support she has received not only in the past several weeks, but also throughout her entire time at the University.
“The Auburn community has a really great way of showing you a lot of love and support, no matter what’s going on,” she said. “I definitely feel like people say, ‘Oh, the Auburn Family ... it’s just a marketing tool,’ but to me, it’s real.”
Stewart said this support has been critical to her success at Auburn, encouraging others to find guidance from people who share similar ideals.
“I think there’s a lot of value in having someone who’s going to support you, but also is there to give you advice,” she said. “I definitely think finding a mentor is something I would encourage, and I can’t think of one person who would not want to help a younger student out.”
She also commented on how her sorority came together during the campaign, allowing the sisters to get to know one another and grow as an organization.
“We got really close to all the girls,” she said. “We have a new pledge class, so we got to know all of them. It was a really cool experience to be around that and have us all come together.”
Stewart said her experience campaigning for Miss Homecoming, along with her work with Special Deliveries, has been humbling and has solidified her belief in working for a greater purpose.
“I leaned on saying that this is an opportunity for me to share this platform with Auburn,” she said.
“And how awesome it would be for people to learn about Special Deliveries … but also to give all the glory to God.”
Stewart said she is not sure what she wants to do after graduation this spring. However, she is considering working for a nonprofit organization.
“I want to work somewhere where I feel supported, but also challenged every day, and where I can continue to make an impact on people and allow them to impact me,” she said.
One thing that has been critical in her growth is learning the importance of helping others, even if it means simply sharing a kind word, she said.
“I think that the best way to give back is spreading kindness and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people, being supportive and showing them God’s love,” she said.
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