A gospel choir singer committed to a life of service has been crowned Miss Lander University.
Shelley Nevins, a junior business major from Columbia, also was named Miss Congeniality, an honor voted on by the pageant contestants. For her talent presentation, Nevins sang “At Last,” a song made popular by Etta James.
“This is a great honor,” said Nevins, moments after receiving the crown from Anna Joy Hulsey, last year’s Miss Lander University winner. “Having the opportunity to represent the University in this way will be a wonderful experience. I am so grateful.”
First runner-up was Autumn Nicole Lockhart, of Chesnee, a freshman with a double major in elementary education and Spanish.
Talent winner Jessica Rose Palmer, of Sumter, was named second runner-up. Palmer played the piano and sang “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles.
Lillian Raine Strawn, of Clarks Hill, received the People’s Choice Award, voted on by members of the Lander community.
The pageant, sponsored by Lander’s chapter of the National Association for Music Education, also included contestants Shein Sein Kim, Janae Ebony Hush, Cameron Drew Beauford, Emily Anne Beiers, Jasmine Jefferson, Lillian Raine Strawn and Emma Grace Avant.
Lander alumnus Joey Plyler was the pageant emcee. The Lander University Jazz Combo performed music throughout the competition.
Nevins, a President’s List honoree, was sponsored by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. A member of Lander’s diversity board, LOUD, Nevins is president of Minorities on the Move, which supports Lander’s Gospel Choir.
“My favorite thing about being part of Minorities on the Move is being able to spread the word of God to others through singing with my members,” she said. “I sing with many gifted and amazing people on the Gospel Choir who are not afraid to be themselves. I could not have picked a better group of people to spend my time with.”
Nevins said she believes in the importance of a life devoted to service. “I love to live by the saying, ‘serve others like Christ served the church.’ Service is the epitome of who I am.”
Her service activities include working with food banks, participating in blood drives and volunteering with the March of Dimes, as well as safe houses for women and children, and feeding the needy.
Her commitment to service also extends to her future career plans. Nevins hopes to become a doula, a professional labor assistant who provides emotional and physical support during childbirth, as well as during a woman’s pregnancy and after the birth.
“I was led to the decision of becoming a birth doula after learning about the death rates among women of color when going through labor and delivery. I have also heard many stories within my family about near-death experiences with labor and delivery,” she said.
Nevins’ parents, Joshua and Latasha Scott, congratulated their daughter among a throng of supporters on stage. U.S. Army veterans, the Scotts said their daughter’s win was “a dream come true.”
Mrs. Scott explained, “To have others see Shelley as the caring young woman we know and recognize her in this way is such joy. We could not be more proud.”
Since choosing Lander for her undergraduate education, Nevins said, “I have been filled with love and support … If I had anything that I needed help with, there was always someone who could point me in the right direction. I also love the versatility of the programs here at Lander and how they prepare their students for jobs in the outside world.”
Being a student at Lander “allows me to flourish to be the best version of myself,” Nevins said.