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In a crown and cart: Miss Virginia promotes health at W&M

Miss Virginia 2012, Rosemary Willis ‘13, visited William & Mary Thursday. She toured campus talking with students and tour groups, reminding them to get plenty of sleep and to focus on physical, as well as mental, health. The event was part of William & Mary Health Promotion Office’s “Tribe Choices” golf cart-campaign - a traveling road show with healthful tips.

“My platform as Miss Virginia is traveling around promoting exercise and nutrition, and the importance of those things to keep us healthy and well,” Willis told the crowds. “They welcomed me back today to help promote this.”

The Chesapeake native’s platform, "Get Moving Today for a Healthier Tomorrow," promotes exercise and physical activity as a way to improve one’s overall quality of life. Willis was crowned Miss Virginia over the summer. She will represent the state in the Miss America pageant in January 2013.

Out and about on campus, there were plenty of high-fives, hugs and congratulations for Willis.

“You have a job; that’s so cool,” said Anne Mennen ’14.

While at school, Willis taught exercise classes at the Recreation Center. It turned out that Mennen was a student.

“She taught me Body Pump,” Mennen explained. “She was the best instructor. She would sing with the songs, and you could tell she had a really good voice.”

Willis, a member of one of the College’s a capella groups, The Accidentals, also sings for the talent portion of her pageant competitions. She said she’d love to come back to campus and sing the national anthem at a football game this year.

Even among her classmates -- amid the chatter of football games, exercise classes and lunch options - -there was a sense of celebrity.

“You can tick that off the list of things to do in America,” said Edward Gainer, an exchange student from the University of Adelaide in Australia. “I don’t reckon I’m going to meet Obama but, if I can meet Miss Virginia…brilliant.

“Who would have thought that walking through William & Mary, walking through Colonial Williamsburg, you could meet Miss Virginia,” he added before posing for a picture.

Though the notoriety attached to the title has taken some getting used to, Willis said the experience has thus far been rewarding.

“The people I get to meet and the networking I get to do for this year is awesome.”

To fulfill her official duties as Miss Virginia, Willis has taken the 2012-2013 academic year off. While she plans on completing her studies in government and kinesiology in the summer and fall terms next year, being back on campus for the start of this school year was a little bittersweet.

“[Taking the year off] puts me behind all my graduating friends,” she said.

“But, you get to be Miss Virginia,” a fellow student reminded her.

Willis smiled.

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