One Monticello Life-Miss Drew County 2010, Toni FindleySeptember 26th, 2010 by Mandy Moss
Raised by single mother, Rhonda Findley, Toni Findley learned early in life what it meant to work hard for what you want, and to lean on those closest to you. Her childhood years shaped a strong passion to help single parents, and to always believe in second chances for others.
Toni attended McGehee schools until her family moved to Monticello right before her sixth-grade year. School was not easy for Toni. She suffered from ADHD and said the problems that came with the condition made everything difficult, from schoolwork to making friends.
“I was very impulsive, blunt, and I couldn’t wait my turn for anything. It made things really difficult. I was also a perfectionist so if I couldn’t do something the perfect way, I just wouldn’t try to do it at all. I’d rather give nothing than only do it half-way.”
By high school, things began to turn around. Due to wonderful teachers and support, she found ways that she could gain more focus.
“They really cared, and they wanted me to succeed. They quickly figured out that they had about 15 minutes of focus from me, and then from there they helped me learn ways to keep my focus on what I was supposed to be doing.”
Dance, a strong passion of Toni’s, helped her learn more self-control and discipline. She began dancing at the age of 3 and with the financial support of her grandparents, she was able to compete in competitions and keep up with the other children.
“Dance is a way that I can express every emotion I feel. I can turn on music and just let go. It’s just me and the music.”
Dance wasn’t the only past time during Toni’s high school years. She was a cheerleader for 3 years, a member of the National Beta Club and National Honor Society. She was a member of the French Club and was also selected to be on the Homecoming Court. She was, and still is, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church.
As Toni got older, Laura McNeese, from Monticello High School, became a second mother to her.
“My mom always had to work a lot to provide for us. She was willing to do whatever it took to make sure we had what we needed. She might leave for work at 6 in the morning and not get home until 6 or later in the evening. Laura took over the other “mom” roles by taking pictures at my events and always making sure someone was there just for me. She’s the one that really encouraged me to do the Miss Drew County Pageant.”
When Mrs. McNeese approached Toni about the idea of competing in the pageant, Toni’s reaction was, “Sure! Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose!”
Miss Drew County was the first pageant that Toni had ever competed in. She was stunned when she came out the winner and thrilled to receive the scholarship money to help continue her education at her current college, UAM. The scholarship will pay for a 12 hour year, towards the next school year.
Currently in her Junior year, Toni plans to double major in social work and psychology, with a minor in criminal justice. She says she knows her career plan may shock some, but she wants to be a therapist in correctional units.
“I mainly want to help the offenders, but I also want to work with their families. When someone is put in prison it affects a lot more people than just the offender. I hope they would understand that I didn’t see myself as better than them, and I want them to know that I’m not judging them.”
With her soft heart for people, she very much wishes that she could help have an impact with death row inmates.
“I wouldn’t be allowed to share my faith with them unless they asked… but, if they did ask, I would love the opportunity to share Christianity with them before they die.”
Currently, Toni works two jobs. She has been a dance instructor at Monticello Dance Academy for 3 years, and has been with the Monticello Country Club for 4 years. She loves teaching the young girls dance, and says that they inspire her to do better, for their sake.
“I know they watch me, and just like winning the pageant, I want to show them that you really can do anything you put your mind to. I also want them to see that even with hard times, I’m still happy. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t find happiness.”
Toni was asked to finish each sentence:
1. In 5 years, I’d really like to…
“have my degree and masters, so I can start new goals. I don’t like to make too many goals at once, so that’s my main one right now.”
2. If I could change the world in one way I would…
“make sure that everyone had equal opportunities. No matter if you were born into a family that had everything, or nothing, you had the same chances to succeed.”
3. My biggest passion in life right now is…
4. Nothing can make me laugh like…
“That’s a hard one, because I laugh at everything!”
5. When people think of me, I hope they think…
“that I’m strong and independent.”c
Food – Spaghetti
Restaurant – Olive Garden
TV Show – Songs of Anarchy; Grey’s Anatomy
Movie – A Time to Kill
Actor/Actress – Matthew McConaughey/ Sandra Bulloch
Book – Twilight
For Fun – Go out to eat; hang out with family and friends