Sara Jo Burks, the assistant director of housing and residence life, has been crowned Senior Miss Alabama USA. After winning the state-level pageant on Aug. 12 at Wallace Community College in Hanceville, Burks will now be representing Alabama in the Miss Senior USA.
Burks sees her participation and achievement as a source of encouragement for other people to chase their dreams.
“I truly want to motivate young people and senior citizens to understand that just because you may have gotten older, it’s not too late to fulfill your dreams in life,” Burks said.
“And just because you don’t succeed in the first time you try something that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to strive for your dream.”
This was the fourth year Burks participated in this particular pageant, though she stated she did not place at all the first year she competed.
“You can improve every time and learn something. And you could keep trying, improve and get better and keep going for it because if Thomas Edison had stopped the first time he tried to get a light bulb to work we wouldn’t have an electric lightbulb today.”
She also emphasized the importance of prayer throughout this process.
Burks stated that she sought wisdom from God to decide whether to continue pursuing her dream or accept a loss and put her efforts elsewhere.
“I kept praying the whole entire time and once I turned it over to him, I won,” Burks said.
Burks currently works with the Miss Troy University pageant as a co-director, the Teen Trojan pageant, and the Miss Venus pageant.
“My participation is so that I can help the girls get in the pageant system that I work with. To help prepare them when they go participate themselves,” Burks stated.
“Sara Jo helped me so much in my journey to Miss Alabama, and I had the opportunity to speak to her about her preparation for this pageant,” said Mary Beth Moore, the reigning Miss Troy University and junior dance major from Birmingham. “She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders.”
In sharing her advice for aspiring young ladies looking to participate in similar pageants, Burks stated that time management is the key thing.
“You need one master calendar where you put everything in and keep you organized. Then you know what all you can do and how hard you can work with your extra-curricular activities,” said Burks.
Burks also stressed the importance of preparation and dedication.
“What makes you feel nervous is the lack of preparation,” Burks said. “The more prepared you are the less nervous you will be. At the first try you may not get it- you’re not going to be the best you can be.
We all have the same amount of time, but we all waste time,” Burks continued. “If it’s important to you then you might got to leave something else that is fun out because you got to look at the bigger picture and work on it.”
For Burks, winning the pageant was a combination of persistent practice, a handful of experiences and a disciplined work ethic.
“I have a sound system at home so I practiced my talent at home. This was my fourth time participating in a state level pageant, so I had an idea of what to expect. And, I am fortunate enough to have a staff at work that is willing to take up slack.”
“For our girls who would love to give pageants a try, but aren’t sure, they can get started with the Miss Venus pageant which happens typically in March,” Burks stated.
“We had Miss America a couple of years ago who played the cups. Everybody usually has a talent, sometimes you just got to figure how to bring it out.”