Herlong Has Fairy Tale Experience During Reign
Most high school graduates are forced to face the reality of the “real world” once they have received their coveted diplomas.
Not Marion native and Lake View High School graduate Taylor Herlong; her experience has been quite the opposite. Soon after delivering her Salutatorian address at the 2011 LVHS Commencement Services, Taylor entered what most would consider a fairy tale.
When Herlong was crowned South Carolina’s Outstanding Teen 2011 last June at the Little Miss and Teen Miss South Carolina Pageant in Hartsville, she realized that life as she knew it was beginning to change, but she had no idea to what extent. Already anticipating the changes that college life as a freshman at the University of South Carolina would bring, winning the title added an entirely new dimension. From making appearances in two Christmas parades during the weekend of first semester exams, to rushing out of British Literature to make her appointment with Governor Haley, to leaving STAT class only to speak to thousands of South Carolina students at the annual State Read-In on the State House steps, life as a college freshman has been anything but ordinary.
“I would get a few strange looks from my classmates when I would enter the classroom in dresses and heels, but it was all worth it. I was determined to continue to put academics first, but I also wanted to make the most of my year as South Carolina’s Outstanding Teen,” Herlong admits. After all, her academics, plus her commitment to her school and community, are what helped her claim the honor in the first place. While other titles awarded at the Little Miss and Teen Miss South Carolina Pageant are judged only on beauty and interview, the honor of South Carolina’s Outstanding Teen considers much more. Academic performance and community and school involvement are added with the other scores to determine this title.
However, even with numerous emceeing, judging, and crowning pageant appearances, countless parades, and several speaking engagements across the state promoting her platform, “Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It,” and advocating literacy as a participant in Cocky’s Reading Express, Taylor has been able to maintain her high level of academic prowess, being named to the Dean’s List both semesters and earning membership in multiple honor fraternities.
“Education and literacy have always been stressed in my home. With both parents being teachers and after many hours of assisting my mom in the LVHS Media Center, it seemed only natural that I would communicate the importance of both during my reign,” Herlong states. “If I had to choose a favorite of all of my experiences this year, I would have to say that leading the parade with Cocky, The Tiger, and Miss South Carolina USA, Erika Powell, signing autographs, and talking about my favorite book in front of thousands of enthusiastic readers at the State Read-In would have to be the highlight. It was an amazing day!”
Taylor realizes, however, that she would not have been able to juggle the stresses of college life and the commitments of a State title on her own. She graciously gives credit to those who have assisted her throughout the year. “I definitely have a strong support group. My boyfriend, Austin, has served as my chauffeur, my mom has worked as my personal hair and makeup artist, my memaw has been my dress-shopping partner, and my nana has acted as my grounded, level-minded confidant. Add to them an extremely large extended family, friends, and a wonderful church family…I am truly blessed!”
If asked if she plans to continue in the world of pageantry following giving up her crown on June 16 and what her future may hold, Herlong admits, “I think I’m hanging up the pageant heels. At one time I had considered maybe competing for Miss South Carolina USA, but I think I may just concentrate on my studies. As for my future career, that’s a little uncertain. As a Broadcast Journalism major, I could certainly see myself as a television news anchor, but I’m also considering continuing my education at the USC School of Law with the hopes of returning to the Pee Dee to practice law with my granddaddy.” Whatever path she decides, however, the future certainly looks bright for this truly Outstanding Teen.
Taylor is the daughter of Kip and Liz Herlong and the granddaughter of Larry and Cynthia McIntyre and Bobby and Ann Herlong, all of Marion, and a member of the Marion Presbyterian Church.