Miss Alabama, A Champion for Ambition: Lauren Bradford ’21

Miss Alabama, A Champion for Ambition: Lauren Bradford ’21

Miss Alabama wears the crown to teach young girls their dreams are possible

Lauren Bradford plays violin at Miss Alabama

For months, Lauren Bradford ’21 woke up to her 6 a.m. alarm every day to get ready for her morning classes. She drank black coffee, slung her backpack over her shoulder and walked to Lowder Hall class. Like most Spring 2021 graduates, she walked across the stage in Jordan-Hare stadium to receive her diploma, but only a few weeks later, she was crowned Miss Alabama 2021. Now, instead of waking up for finance classes, she wakes up for interviews with FOX news and al.com.

Auburn Magazine: You won Miss Alabama on June 12, 2021, and since then, you moved from Gulf Shores to Birmingham. How are you doing? Are you getting much sleep?

Lauren Bradford: I’m doing well! Last night, I got a solid four hours of sleep because I got back late from an event and had to wake up early for an interview. I didn’t realize I would be traveling so much, and I didn’t know that it takes 30 minutes to get around Birmingham!

AM: When did you know that you wanted to compete for Miss Alabama?

 LB: I grew up in Gulf Shores, Ala., where pageants are almost non-existent. I grew up as a tomboy, a skateboarder and a member of ROTC at my high school. I didn’t know about the pageant world until I competed in Miss Gulf Shores High School, where I somehow won as a freshman. Even in that small process, what drew me in the most was my personal growth and representing something bigger than myself.

AM: In 2018, you won the title of Miss Auburn University after being on campus for only one monthwhat did you learn from that experience

LB: I competed at the Miss Auburn University pageant as a freshman because I knew the scholarship opportunities were awesome—I never expected to win when I was just 18 years old! It was a gift to be challenged as a freshman on Auburn’s campus, and it showed me what it means to represent a group of people—not just the students, but the intergenerational family that came with it. To represent something so special was what first gave me a taste of what it’s like to be Miss Alabama. When I represented Auburn University at Miss Alabama in 2019, I did all of the legwork, but this past year, I got to focus on preparing my heart for the possibility of stepping into this role.

“This past year, I got to focus on preparing my heart for the possibility of stepping into this role.”

Lauren Bradford shakes Governor Kay Ivey's hand as Miss Auburn University
Bradford meeting Alabama Governor Kay Ivey ’67 in 2021

AM: Over the past several years, you have had to give up your time and energy for Miss Alabama, even if that meant saying ‘no’ to social events and vacations during college. Would all of that sacrifice and hard work have been worth it if you didn’t win the crown this year?

LB: No matter what would have happened this year, I would have walked away feeling like a winner because I have [felt] myself grow so much. And, I have earned more than $86,000 in cash scholarships through my time competing in the Miss Alabama program, and it has allowed me to graduate debt-free and to pursue my masters of finance at Vanderbilt, and this would have been true regardless of winning the crown. I’ve also learned skills that I will be able to transfer into the professional world of finance, and I will have confidence going into my career field. 

Walking into Miss Alabama this year, I already knew [because of that] that I was a winner—I’m so thankful that the Lord took away the mindset of ‘needing’ to win, because that takes away what you gain from the experience as a whole. I was at peace during the week leading up to Miss Alabama because of this new mindset—it was all because of Him!

AM: You’ve played violin since you were 10 years old. Tell me about your violin talent and the song that you chose to perform at Miss Alabama this year.   

LB: I had to hone in on playing my violin this year because I was playing a new piece, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie “Titanic.” It was a challenge because I had never played anything like it before. I chose that song because I learned the true story of the string quartet that unanimously decided to keep playing their instruments as the ship was sinking, and I think many Alabamians feel like we are in a time where our ships are sinking after the pandemic. I wanted to bring a message of hope and encouragement to the Miss Alabama stage. I needed to make sure that I was not only able to play the song well, but that I could effectively showcase the message behind it.

Lauren Bradford is crowned

AM: A big part of your job is speaking to people. Did you always have this skill, or did you have to learn it?

LB: My three siblings and I grew up without a phone until we go to high school. Waiting to get a phone allowed me time to dream and focus on things that are important to me, like gaining social skills, and I might not have learned this if I had a phone that I was glued to. I remember when I was a freshman in high school, I was at a tennis match and I saw a family friend on the opposing team, and we had a five-minute conversation. I went back to my team, and the girl sitting next to me looked at me with wide eyes and asked how I had a conversation with an adult.

I didn’t realize that that is a challenge for my generation, so that is something that I’ve learned to fight for with my social impact initiative ‘UNPLUG: digital diet plan’, which raises awareness for the need of having a technologically balanced lifestyle and avoiding technology overuse. I might not have developed my conversation skills if I had a phone that I was glued to!

AM: You have spent two years with a younger girl that you mentored through the Miss Alabama Rising Stars program. What have you learned through this role?

LB: I have been changed by the mentorships that the organization has given me, and now that I am in a place to mentor younger girls, I understand the weight of it. They are human beings who are at a pivotal age, and I love that I get to carry the title of ‘role model’ for them!

AM: At Miss America this December, what do you want the judges to see in you?  

LB: I want them to see that I am anchored in my values, and that I’m not afraid of ambition. We live in a culture where youth are scared of ambition, and it might even be unpopular to be seen as ambitious. Young people don’t have to be afraid of their ambition, or afraid to chase their dreams, regardless of what their peers are doing. I want to be the Miss Alabama that champions ambition and shows that on the Miss America stage.

“I want to be the Miss Alabama that champions ambition and shows that on the Miss America stage.”

Jillian Walker ’20

Jillian Walker ’20

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College of Sciences and Mathematics

May 2020

 

What is your favorite Auburn experience?

My favorite experience at Auburn was strolling with my sorority sisters in front of the Student Center!

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to enjoy a fun summer with my family. This fall I will attend University of Florida at Gainesville College of Pharmacy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Baxter Burke ’20

Baxter Burke ’20

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College of Veterinary Medicine

May 2020

 

What was your favorite Auburn experience?

Getting to know the AUCVM Class of 2020! And you know… studying nonstop.

What are your future plans? 

Small Animal Associate Veterinarian in Kingsport, Tenn.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Samuel “Skip” Vaughn ’76

Samuel “Skip” Vaughn ’76

I received my degree in journalism and went right to work as a news reporter for The Huntsville Times from 1976-80. I covered the police beat my last two years with the newspaper, including high profile cases like the Southwest Molester crimes and the city public workers strike in 1978.

In 1980, my government civil service career began when I became an Army public affairs specialist at Redstone Arsenal. I’ve always worked with the Redstone Rocket, the Army installation’s weekly newspaper. I serve as the editor and do much of the writing and take many of the photos every week. I’m among the 80 percent of the Redstone workers who are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

My passion is sharing the stories of Vietnam veterans. At 65, I grew up during the Vietnam War era and I know what these brave men and women endured in fighting an unpopular war for our country. I have interviewed more than 265 Vietnam veterans since 2015 when we started our ongoing series, Vietnam Revisited, in the Redstone Rocket. Our website is www.theredstonerocket.com. My book, “Vietnam Revisited,” was published in July 2017 by Page Publishing of New York and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major outlets. I teach a class periodically in Huntsville for the continuous education series LearningQuest.

Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I reside in Huntsville with my wife, Janice, a high school English teacher, and our son, Cole, and daughter, Glorian. Glorian is a freshman at Samford University. We are blessed. I would love to have the opportunity to share my experiences with this generation of students at the world’s greatest institution of higher learning, my alma mater, Auburn University. War Eagle!

Steve Sartain ’98: Forming A Community For Veterans Down Under

Steve Sartain ’98: Forming A Community For Veterans Down Under

He was a Charter Member of the first U.S. VFW Post in Australia to bridge the gap back home

Steve Sartain 98

Throughout his life, the only constant for Steve Sartain ’98 is that it’s consistently inconsistent.

Born in South Korea into a military family that alternated between Korea and the U.S. every few years, change is all Sartain has known. Yet, no matter where he’s been in his life, Sartain has managed to build a sense of community with those around him, just as he’s done by helping establish the first U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in Australia.

“One of the things missing for me here in Australia was the sense of camaraderie that I had in the military as well as a central group of Americans living Down Under,” Sartain said. “Additionally, there was little to no support for American veterans and their families like they would receive if they were Stateside.”

Out of this desire, Sartain, along with several other U.S. veterans, applied for and got Western Australia VFW Post 12163 chartered on May 7, 2017. From putting on social events to providing services to veterans and their families and supporting the local community, Sartain has worked in several roles in the post to make U.S. veterans feel at home on the other side of the world.

With his father’s service in the Air Force, Sartain is the fifth generation of military servicemen in his family, and he’s been able to trace his family lineage all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

“Having grown up on Air Force bases for most of my life, I always wanted to fly, so right after I got my driver’s license at 16, I flew for three months straight and earned my private pilot’s license, which is still one of the most memorable moments in my life.”

Attending high school in Germantown, Tennessee, Sartain decided Auburn was the best fit for him because of its strong aviation and aerospace programs as well as its top-ranked ROTC unit. What he didn’t realize is that he would get much more than that from his experience on The Plains.

“I specifically remember walking around campus during my first visit, and the fact that just saying “War Eagle” means hello, good-bye or what’s up, I was hooked. I loved my Auburn days, and to this day, I still try to represent Auburn in any way I can in the Land Down Under.”

Steve Sartain 98
Sartain with a Quokka, an Australian marsupial

In his time at college, Sartain was active in March of Dimes, the Auburn Choir and Delta Sigma Phi and Phi Mu Alpha fraternities, but a life-altering moment came during his time as a camp counselor in the inaugural Camp War Eagle.

During one of the academic sessions when campers can speak to advisors, Sartain decided to discuss the hospitality program with Susan Hubbard, now dean of the College of Human Sciences, because not many airlines were hiring at the time. She suggested taking a couple entry-level courses in the major. Because of his background working in the restaurant industry, the classes felt like second nature and he switched.

A couple internships with the Walt Disney World Resort later, Sartain got hired as the hotel manager for the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta two weeks after graduation and was heavily involved in the Ritz’s college-recruiting efforts. Many of these visits were back to Auburn. During one such trip, he met his wife who happened to be an exchange student from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia; his fraternity “big brother” was eventually the best man at his wedding in Australia.

Although he would occasionally fly, even sometimes taking friends to Auburn gamedays, the itch to get back into the cockpit was too much, and he was sworn into the Air Force in 2001 after three years with Ritz.

“I’ve always said my worst day in the air is better than my best day on the ground.” After completing training in 2003 and with his squadron being deployed overseas, Sartain was one of just three officers running the entire squadron in Florida. With numerous jobs and responsibilities in the squadron and being half Korean on his mother’s side, Sartain got the nickname “Odd Job,” from the Korean villain in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger.”

After more than a  decade of meritorious distinguished service in the Air Force, Sartain relocated to Australia when his Auburn sweetheart got a job offer too good to refuse.

His illustrious Air Force career included flying Combat Rescue deployments across the globe, flying humanitarian missions supporting Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike as well as flying 17 rescue missions for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. He also aided in the rescue mission that was dramatized in the film “Captain Philips” starring Tom Hanks.

Sartain’s first job in Perth, Western Australia, was director of the AeroSpace Training Centre for the state government, but once again, the itch to personally get back into the cockpit was too strong. When he got the offer to be the inaugural manager for Western Australia’s Emergency Rescue Helicopter Services, he couldn’t resist.

“The opportunity to be back in world search and rescue was too good to pass up. It is an honor to lead our rescue crews in providing this life-saving service for the state, and continuing to uphold the SAR motto: These things we do, that others may live.”

With a dream job secured, the only piece of his past life missing in Australia was the sense of camaraderie he got from the military. But just as he’s done in dozens of homes growing up, at an unfamiliar school in Auburn and on several Air Force bases, he created a sense of togetherness through the first VFW in Australia.

“Our goal is to continue to support American veterans and their families here in Western Australia. We have been fortunate to be able to increase our post numbers each year, promote the VFW in supporting the community and bring together a tighter-knit Oz-American extended family.”

Steve Sartain 98