We spoke to Katie LaRoche, Miss Michigan 2010, for Mentoring Month. Katie told us all about her most influential mentor, Perry Woodard Conway.
I would say without a doubt that my greatest mentor since the age of two has been Perry Woodard Conway. I grew up spending more waking hours at her little dance studio in Bay City, my hometown, than anywhere else. She planted the seed that helped me develop the work ethic necessary to attain my goals. But more importantly, she exemplified a true compassion for people that was beyond beautiful, a compassion that brought her an inner peace I sought to hold.
I could never have imagined that I would get the opportunity to use all the years spent studying dance as a powerful tool in sharing an important message, one of reality coupled with hope. The piece I performed on the Miss America stage this January was an artistic expression of my journey coming to understand the injustice that takes place in our world. When performing this specific routine, my mind takes me back to the villages, to the slums, to the people from different corners of the world that have changed my perspective on life. There is a great deal going on in our world that need not be, and it has been a blessing to be able to use music and dance to give others a glimpse of this reality—and maybe, just maybe, inspire a few to take action.
Miss Perry showed me the way to compassion and provided a means to share it with others. Without her I would not be the person I am.