Kay Ivey, Lieutenant Governor of Alabama
Story by Kelly Caldwell, Spring 2014
While Alabama Lt. Governor Kay Ivey is the highest ranking female in state office, don't call her a politician.
"I am just a regular Alabamian that believes in working hard, tithing, saving, not spending more than you have and helping other people the best you can," she said.
She came from humble beginnings, growing up in rural Camden, Alabama where parents instilled in their children the importance of hard work, saving their money and doing good.
"It really was our upbringing," she said. "Help folks make things better than how you found them."
In 1960s rural Alabama, there were not a tremendous amount of opportunities for women, but Ivey was given one that changed her life in numerous ways.
"I was involved in band and Future Homemakers of America which were great, but Girls State really taught me a great deal."
American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, according to its website, is a nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country.
" I had the opportunity to go to Alabama Girls State at Huntingdon College," she said. "I had never really been out of Camden much less to something like that. Hell, I didn't have a store bought dress until I was in 11th grade, my mama made all my clothes."
Girls State is a week long program where young people learn first-hand how their state and local governments work. Elections are ran, bills are debated and legislation is passed.
"I thought everyone would fun for governor, so I decided to run for lieutenant governor," Ivey said. "I had little Dixie cups planted with ivy and I put those out in everyone's room... Ivey for Lt. Governor.
"Well, I won the dang thing. It was an eye opening experience because I didn't know anyone. Girls State taught me how to meet people, the importance of eye contact and which side to wear your name tag."
It was definitely her first successful campaign and maybe even foreshadowed what was to come for Ivey, but most importantly the experience led her to meet some of the most influential women of her life, other than family of course.
"Ms. Lillian Andrews (director of Alabama Girls State at the time) taught us how to say the pledge properly and I have been teaching it to anyone who would listen ever since," Ivey said.
"President Reagan once said 'Freedom is never more than one generation away from vanishing.' It is so important to teach our young people the freedoms we have so they learn to cherish the ideals of liberty. No one guarantees happiness, a job or money. It is the pursuit of those things that we must protect."
After Girls State and Girls Nation, Ivey attended Auburn University where she had two goals.
"I wanted to graduate with a B average and play in the Auburn University Marching Band," Ivey said. "I achieved both but then I started looking at my priorities and focused more on student government and helping my fellow students."
Campaigns and elections came into Ivey's life once again and during her four years at Auburn, she ran and won five campus-wide campaigns, a record that still stands today.
"Every life experience you build on it, you don't realize it at the time, but that is what happens," she said. "You have to participate in that which surrounds you.
Ivey continued to participate in all that surrounded her as a teacher and banker before beginning her political career.
"My first teaching job out of college was at Rio Linda High School in Sacramento Calif." she said. "I created the first forensic and debate team there and we made it to the state finals that first year."
As a banker, Ivey became the first woman to be President of Alabama Young Bankers Association, which was when Girls State intervened in her life yet again.
"Mary George Waite (Former Girls State Director and Chairperson) was the first female to head the state banking association and she appointed me Chairman of the Education Committee," Ivey said.
"Girls State and the women involved opened doors for me which is why I try to open doors for young people now," Ivey said. "It's my way of paying it forward."
Ivey was the director of Girls State for four years and returns each June not only to speak to the young people but to also catch up with dear friends.
Another strong Southern woman, that impacted Ivey's life was Ruth Stovall, the first woman appointed Assistant State Director of Vocational Education for the Alabama Department of Education.
"I admired her a lot," Ivey said. "Legislators loved to see her coming down the hall because she always had the best cakes. She taught me to never let a man make a decision on an empty stomach."
Ivey ran for state auditor in 1982 and while it was unsuccessful, she did get a valuable piece of advice.
" Mary George was the first woman to do this or that and the mayor of her hometown, Ed Yarbrough, gave me some great advice when I was running for state auditor," Ivey said. "He told me... Kay don't talk about being the first woman to do this or that because no one really cares.
"Earn your way by the work you do. Tote your own water and stand your own ground. You will be respected," she said. "I have done a lot of "first woman" to do this or that, but that's not really as important as getting the job done."
Ivey has held a state office since 2003 when she became the first Republican State Treasurer since Reconstruction and is currently finishing her first term as lieutenant governor.
Woodland Lady Bobcats, Back-to-Back State Champions
Story by Kelly Caldwell, Spring 2014
Confident. Driven. Disciplined. Sacrifice. Faith. To some people, these words may not all work together, but they describe the Woodland Lady Bobcats completely. On their way to winning their back-to-back Class 2A state titles, those words were used more than once.The only blemish to the otherwise perfect season was the 64-62 loss to Lauderdale County on the road.
"We were robbed in that game," Jaide Walker, senior forward, said. "But, we really learned not to take things for granted. We had to play our best in each and every game."
Over the two seasons, the Lady Cats only lost three games , two of which were by only 2 points. After winning two titles and finishing as state runner up in 2011, this group of seniors are the most decorated in school history for sure, but its not a title the team took lightly.
"After winning it all last year, we couldn't imagine that we were going to do it again," Walker said. We just really took it one game at a time, and now we are finished playing for Woodland. It seems unreal to be done with something that has been such a big part of our lives for so long."
For the four starting seniors, Leah Strain, Shanna Strain, Shalyn Strain and Walker, the hard work began well before the first time any of the foursome put on a Woodland uniform.
"We started playing basketball as soon as we could walk," twin sisters Shalyn and Shanna said. "But we started playing together with Leah and Jaide when we were in third grade."
"We were the Dixie Thunder, and when we started I was terrible," Jaide said. "I remember my dad saying to me... Basketball... really? But, I worked hard at it."
Even back then the foursome was something special.
"We would have to play up an age group sometimes even two age groups," Leah said. "Sometimes the other team seemed like they were two feet taller than us."
To achieve this success, sacrifices were made. Every summer was spent in the gym either playing travel ball or attending team camps.
"We had to work hard for what we got. A lot of people think this was easy. Our vacations were in the gym unless a tournament was at the beach," Leah said. "We didn't have vacations like typical kids did. Our summers were spent in gyms and locker rooms."
While it was tough, none of the girls would trade it for anything.
"I don't think anyone likes camps," Shanna said. "But at the end of the day, when you were so tired you could barely move, we knew we were doing what it takes to be better players when it counted."
"There is going to be let-downs and disappointments in life," Leah said. "You can't let that beat you. You have to get back up and fight.
"I have always been one of the smaller players but my Gramps always told me 'It's not how big you are its how big your heart is and how big you play!' I will always carry that with me."
That determination will serve them well in the future. The twins will play basketball at Southern Union State Community College while Leah will continue her athletic career at Jacksonville State in the fall.
The girls are quick to give credit where its due.
"We give God all the Glory," Shalyn said. "He made all this possible and we wouldn't have anything without Him. The Lord has really blessed us that we have been able to play with such a great team."
These future leaders have also been fortunate to have some strong women in their lives to teach them what is important.
Jaide was quick to say that she looks up to her mom Rhonda for a very simple reason.
"She puts up with my dad," Jaide laughed. "It's a very hard job to do sometimes."
Shanna and Shalyn agreed their grandmother Linda Kirby is one of the strongest women then know.
"She doesn't let anyone take advantage of her and tells people like it is," Shalyn said.
"Yeah, she doesn't take crap off anyone," Shanna said.
While Leah believes her mother Robin has taught her a lot about being a strong Southern woman.
"She stands up for what she believes in," Leah said. " My dad is a football coach and she catches a lot of grief sometimes. Early on, she would hold her tongue in the stands but now she holds her ground for what she believes in. She is strong in her faith and life."
While the future is uncertain for these four, one thing is true. The girls are well on their way to being more than a couple of state titles earned in high school. Basketball has taught us so much about life," Leah said. "If you work hard and don't quit, anything is possible."
Strong Southern Women
From Southern Belles to Steel Magnolias, stories about women making their mark with style and grace.