Thursday, April 28, 2016

My journey from "new girl" to state Beta Club President

by Ashlynn McCain

​In the early months of my junior year, it was announced that an election would soon be held for the office of Beta Vice President. Originally, I didn’t think about it much. I saw the others who had signed up and figured I didn’t have a very good chance at winning. However, the day of the deadline, I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign my name to the list. I had no concept of what this small action would do for me and my school.
The day of the election came, and all Beta Club members were summoned to the lunch room to hear a quick speech from those running. I had only been part of Lamar County High School for a little over a year, and the “new girl” feeling had just worn off. I knew many members of the club, but I was still afraid that I was an outsider, and that my loud personality had probably made many feel uncomfortable, dooming me to last place. Despite my worries, I ended up in a runoff. It was my name called over the intercom a day later, and I was shocked beyond words. Nervousness crept in as I realized in several months, I would have to speak in front of over 2,000 people. I knew I had leadership skills, and that I could really make a difference if I were elected into state office. But would I be able to pull it off? Though the question hung within me, I knew that I had to try.

​When March rolled around, Mrs. Leanne Burks and I began to brainstorm over different themes for my campaign. Because the show had become so popular with my friends, I had begun to watch Grey’s Anatomy a couple months previously. The characters were not only intelligent, but strong and enduring. I admired many of them and wished to accomplish great things as they did. We agreed that Beta’s Anatomy should be the theme, and I immediately began on my speech.

​Mrs. Burks and one of our seniors, Katelyn Allen, worked together to create our skit. I was very impressed with the end result, and ecstatic to see them perform it at our Sunday practice. To see all of my peers smiling and dancing brought me happiness; I hadn’t expected so much excitement from others, and the positivity was overwhelming. My first time at the microphone was not only nerve-wracking, but also very sloppy. I remember feeling like I had let my fellow Betas down. Determined to make them proud, I practiced relentlessly until finally, the day of the convention arrived.

​After a three hour drive on our bus, spilling soda all over my suit, and driving my closest friend, Julia Irvin, as far up the wall as I could, we reached Birmingham. We all dragged our luggage to our sponsors’ room and made our way to the East Exhibition Hall to watch the group talent competition. At 11 AM, I braved the escalator to attend my candidate meeting. We all tried to be polite to each other, but awkwardness hung in the air as we met the individuals we would be competing against. Suddenly, my confidence dwindled as I looked at the faces around me. I assured myself that I belonged just as much as they did, and tried to calm my nerves throughout the meeting.

​Once the meeting was adjourned, the day continued with a brief meet and greet and first general session. At 8:00 that night, the second general session began. I had taken my seat with the other eight candidates, dressed in a suit I had chosen two days prior. Speeches and skits came and went, and then it was time for candidate number eight to give her speech. I could feel nothing but my heart pounding in my chest. As I said my final words, pride swelled within me as cheers rang from opposing sides of the auditorium. I grinned with my thank you, and took side stage. My Betas entered the stage to perform their skit, and I tried to stop my legs from shaking. The skit finished with rousing applause, and then it was all up to me to answer a final, impromptu question. From there, my memory blurs completely. I only recall running into Julia’s outstretched arms as I rushed off stage. My Betas were hugging me, clapping me on the back,and my cheeks twitched from smiling so much. I distinctly remember one of the seniors, MalloryBardon, saying, “I think you just won this!” All of the happiness and excitement I felt swirling around me let me know I had done what I originally set out to do — make my school and my Betas proud.

​The day after, we all sat down for the third general session. One after the other, the new secretary, Collin Carruth, and vice president, Selena Fravel, were installed. Then, the crowd grew quiet as the outgoing Alabama Beta Club President, Cameron Williams, took the mic to announce the new president. Julia and Haley Carr held my hands. I kept telling myself to be gracious, to tell the winner how well they did, to embrace whatever came next. And then he spoke.

​“Will the new president…Ashlynn McCain—”

​Cheers. Thunderous cheers. I buried my face in my hands as my friends stood up around me, yelling and clapping. Trembling as I stood, I hugged my friends and smiled at my boyfriend, Hayden Duncan. I grinned ear to ear as I beelined to the stage. I found my spot next to the podium, only comprehending his question when he asked if I would accept the position; I agreed and gave a thank you speech to a tearful mother, sponsors, and audience. As the realization took over, I knew that we would not only travel to New Orleans, but that I would be faced with a crowd from beyond the borders of Alabama. This Lamar County girl had gone to State and won. Now, it is time to face the nation.

LCHS student and state Beta Club President Ashlynn McCain with club sponsors Portia Johnson, Earnestine Chandler, and Leanne Burks, and principal Vance Herron.

​Thank you to my principal, Vance Herron; my sponsors, Mrs. Ernestine Chandler, Leanne Burks, and Mrs. Portia Johnson; and my Beta Club. Also, thank you to all those who voted for me, and congratulations to Selena and Collin for your achievements. A special thank you to Julia, Hayden, and my family. The support was overwhelming, and I love you all dearly.

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