Blakely Bays loves to share with others the impact ETSU has had on her family through the years, and she takes every opportunity she has to do so.
“ETSU has been great about opening so many doors for me,” she said, noting that she was invited earlier this year to speak at the ETSU Distinguished President’s Trust Dinner, an annual gathering honoring supporters of the university, which has led to further opportunities to share her message. “It’s done so much for my family. My mom, dad, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles all went here, and they all have been in music, dance – the performing arts – and so ETSU has affected my whole family. And that’s why we continue to come here and learn the performing arts.”
The ETSU senior is majoring in communication studies with a concentration in public relations. Bays plans to go to graduate school, and hopes to one day become a leader in qualitative research at Eastman Chemical Co. Dancing, however, is both her passion and her academic minor, and she is a full Honors-in-Discipline scholarship recipient in dance.
Her love of dance has opened other doors as well.
As the reigning Miss Johnson City, Bays – the daughter of a former Miss ETSU – traveled to Jackson this summer to compete in the Miss Tennessee Pageant, where she danced in the talent portion of the competition. She was named the People’s Choice Award winner by the audience and earned a spot in the top 10 overall.
Also a former Miss Teen Tennessee and Miss Bristol, Bays has used her platform as Miss Johnson City to speak to around 7,000 young people in area schools on the importance of Internet safety. “My message has been ‘Beware What You Share’ and be careful who you ‘friend’ on Facebook and other social media,” she said, recalling her own experience with someone stealing her identity and photos to create a fake profile.
Bays teaches at a local school of dance and is captain of the ETSU Dance Team, which performs at all home games for the Buccaneer women’s and men’s basketball games. Team members also serve as ambassadors for the ETSU athletic program and have assisted extensively in fundraising efforts for the new football team. In addition, she is choreographing the production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” that will be presented at ETSU in November by the Department of Music and the Division of Theatre and Dance; she plans to use her experience in this production in writing her Honors-in-Discipline thesis.
Some of the things Bays enjoys the most about ETSU are the size of the school and the community of which it is a part.
“You have the small-community feel that this campus brings, but we’re a big enough city to where you can feel like you’re going away to college,” she explained. “But the community is so close that you feel right at home.”