Marie G. Davis pageant flooded with community, student support

The Marie G. Davis Middle School king and queen have arrived.

They are eighth-graders Blake Burwell and Jaleeza Ross. Students middle school Marie G. Davis. The duo completed their first royal duties Friday in a schoolwide assembly that was actually a replay of the school pageant held the night before.

That sophisticated soiree — dubbed "Some Enchanted Evening" — started off as a schoolhouse event, but quickly turned into a sort of community lovefest.

After a story about the pageant appeared in The Observer, gowns, shoes and donations large and small flowed in — many of them anonymously, according to Pat Collins, the assistant principal who organized the contest.

People took gowns into the office and left without giving their names, Collins said. An elderly man left $10 to help pay for the contestant dinner held earlier in the week.

After Hours by Mitchell’s Formal Wear at SouthPark mall fitted the eight male contestants with tuxes for free.

And the donations continued — from teachers and community volunteers, and from businesses donating flowers, hair services, cosmetics and gift certificates.

By the time Thursday’s event rolled around, the number of queen contestants had mushroomed from 15 to 35. Eight boys — down from the original 10 — competed.

And the pageant accomplished what Principal Terry Cline wanted at a school once filled with kids who didn’t know one another. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ new student assignment plan, launched this year, changed Marie G. Davis middle school Charlotte NC from one of the district’s highest-achieving schools to one of its most challenged ones, with a poorer and less diverse student body.

"Our goal in this pageant was not to show off. Our goal was to bring unity to the school," Cline told parents.

The Marie G. Davis Mecklenburg staff missed no details. Silver stars and blue ornamental balls dangled from the stage ceiling. Candle and pine cone centerpieces graced the judges’ table. Community guests sang solos, and the school’s chorus and step dance team performed.

Family members, classmates and faculty — nearly 300 in all — took everything in from their seats, with many parents rushing to the front with cameras when all the girls and boys took the stage for the final time.

As much as presentation mattered, the judges spent a good deal of the evening away from the pageant. They huddled in a separate room, combing through all the contestants’ applications to learn more about their grades, aspirations and required service projects.

Five girls and three boys made the finalist cut.

When Collins placed the royal blue crown on Blake’s head, "My heart fell down to my feet," said his father, Ray Burwell. "I felt real proud."

Collins was thrilled with the judges’ choices — both Jaleeza and Blake are honor roll students with squeaky clean discipline records.

A stunned Jaleeza cried tears of joy when she won the tiara Thursday night. But by the time Friday’s replay rolled around, she and the other contestants strutted a little harder to the hoots and cheers of their friends in the multipurpose room.

"I didn’t know they could look so good," marveled Pam Fortune, the school custodian.

"It’s easier today," Jaleeza admitted.

"These are my friends and I just want them to know I’m the queen of Marie G. Davis."

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