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Miss SWOSU Will Use Platform to Support Special Needs Children



Elizabeth Bayless has always had a love for working with children and adults with special needs, and now the newly crowned Miss Southwestern 2017 plans to turn her passion into her platform.

“I’m really excited to serve as Miss Southwestern 2017,” said Elizabeth, who was crowned October 29 on the SWOSU campus.

Elizabeth, a sophomore from Hennessey, said her goal this year as Miss Southwestern is to reach out to area public schools and try to support activities for children with special needs, whether it’s sports, the arts or other programs.

In high school, Elizabeth and some friends started a dance program for people with special needs called Dance Expressions. Every other Saturday, they taught dance as a form of expression and a way to have fun. She also volunteered with Special Olympics and other sports programs.

Elizabeth’s interest in working with children and adults with special needs started when she was a child. Her childhood babysitter has a son with autism. He’s younger than Elizabeth, but they went to the same schools. Whenever he needed an ally, Elizabeth was always there. Their friendship has turned into a lifelong goal of serving others.

“I feel like I have a passion and a call for this, so I decided to act on it,” she said.

Pursuing Medicine at SWOSU

Elizabeth spent her first semester of college at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. She shadowed at an occupational therapy office in town, and she knew what she wanted to do. She decided to switch her major from dance to the medical field. She researched her options and knew SWOSU was for her.

After graduating from SWOSU, Elizabeth plans to further her education and become an occupational therapist or physician’s assistant.

“It’s a really great way to work in the medical field and also work with a special group of individuals,” she said.

Transferring to SWOSU has been a great choice for Elizabeth, she said. “SWOSU is a small community, and I fell in love with Weatherford,” she said. “... I like being close to my professors. It’s a good fit.”

Next Stop: Miss Oklahoma

Miss Southwestern was the first pageant Elizabeth had ever entered. A friend from the SWOSU pom squad, Maybree Rittenhouse, encouraged her to give it a try. Maybree is Miss Southwestern 2016.

But being on stage is nothing new to Elizabeth. Her talent was dance, and she performed a jazz routine to a song called “Canned Heat.” With her new crown, Elizabeth also took home more than $6,500 in scholarships, cash and prizes.

Now Elizabeth has plenty of time to prepare for her second pageant — Miss Oklahoma, which will be June 3-10 in Tulsa.

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