Clarke carries hopes of many with her

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

This January Miss Greater Greenville 2004, Melinda Toole, passed on her crown and title to Christen Clarke of Mobile.

Clarke has pretty much hit the ground running ever since.

Within days of her crowning, the new Miss Greater Greenville (or Miss GG as she is often called) was back in Greenville to promote her platform when she spoke at the dedication ceremonies at the new Y.

It hasn’t been easy juggling such a busy schedule.

&uot;The biggest problem has been time management – I’m going to school full time, I work two jobs and I've been doing my best to get up to Greenville from Mobile at least once a week,&uot; said Clarke, a psychology student at the University of South Alabama.

It would take a dynamo to keep up with Clarke’s hectic pace, but Miss GG Director Sue Arnold says Clarke, a full time dance instructor, has shown she has what it takes.

&uot;Christen in full of energy…she has a lot of determination,&uot; said Arnold, adding, &uot;She has reminded us just how important a regular fitness routine is to one’s well being.&uot;

Clarke’s platform for Miss Alabama is one that promotes youth physical fitness, and many of her trips to the Camellia City have involved Clarke in sharing her message with local children and youth.

&uot;Christen has been a very visible presence here in our city. She has spoken in classrooms at Fort Dale and visited the YMCA promoting youth physical fitness. She was involved in promoting and participating in the Y’s Kids’ Day recently, too,&uot; said Arnold.

In fact, the event at the Y was Clarke’s favorite of all the events she has appeared at since taking her crown.

&uot;We didn’t have a huge number of kids turn out, but the ones who were there really seemed to enjoy themselves and understand what we were trying to do for them. That was great,&uot; said Clarke, who herself struggled as a teen to overcome the effects of a total knee reconstruction.

Clarke has studied dance for many years and says she loves teaching the youngsters in her classes. However, her chosen talent for the Miss Alabama preliminaries and for the state program is vocal performance.

&uot;While I love dance and I feel it’s a gift I should use, I am more comfortable with singing when I am on stage – and I never sing a song that doesn’t somehow tell my story,&uot; explained Clarke, who was talent co-winner in the Miss GG program.

Clarke has used her considerable vocal talents at events all over the city, including the Greenville High Beauty Pageant, the Greenville Area Arts Council Gala, Main Street’s Concert in the Park series and Butler County’s Relay For Life.

She plans to perform the song &uot;Gold&uot; at the state preliminary.

Clarke praises the Miss GG Scholarship Board for their support and encouragement from the moment she took the crown.

A bevy of gifts awaited her at the lavish reception held post-program at the Ritz, and throughout her reign, Clarke says she has been encouraged to get to know the community and its people.

&uot;This is a very diligent, hard-working group and much more like a family than what you would normally expect. They open the door to you and invite you to come and be a part of the city,&uot; said Clarke.

As Miss Greater Greenville, Clarke feels she has gained more than a shot at the Miss Alabama title.

&uot;You grow and you gain a lot of friendships

here. The Miss GG Board really takes pride in the community. I appreciate the fact they do enjoy and appreciate their hometown and want to promote that – a lot of preliminaries just aren’t like that,&uot; she added.

If she is chosen as the next Miss Alabama, Clarke plans to work with state representatives in hopes of passing a bill limiting the amount of unhealthy, sugar-filled snacks available to youngsters in school vending machines.

&uot;Part of living a healthy lifestyle is eating right and children need to learn that at an early age – I would hope to be able to promote that idea as Miss Alabama,&uot; she said.