The 20 people gathered in the Yates High School foyer on Friday, Oct. 7, might not have appeared to have much in common. But beyond their matching red t-shirts and tiaras, the alumni are all recipients of the school’s most illustrious honor: being crowned Mister or Miss Yates.
The title is coveted by students whose attendance and academic performance meets certain qualifications. Elected by their peers, Mister and Miss Yates represent not only their graduating class, but the Yates community. They participate in community outreach, appear at pep rallies, and act as the face of Yates for the school year.
“You had your cheerleaders, your Homecoming Queen, but Miss Yates was holistic,” said Miss Yates 1986, Pamela Mayfield-Kizzee, who often commuted from school to her job and back to school in the afternoons to fulfill her Miss Yates duties.
Tenure as Miss and Mister Yates does not end after graduation. The Yates community is close-knit, and previous winners return yearly for the coronation of the new keepers of the title that they all share.
Among the returning Miss Yates was Gertrudejane Holliday Stone, elected in 1951 and wearing the same yellow sash from 70 years ago.
“It was an honor, one of the best honors,” said Stone, displaying a photo of herself at 18 at her own Miss Yates coronation. She came to the coronation directly from leading the Yates marching band as drum major, a commitment she was unwilling to abandon, even for a crown and a pretty dress. “I’m not dressed up in a suit and everything because I had a duty to lead that band. After I led that band, that’s when I became Miss Jack Yates.”
Turning 90 this year, Stone is still an active member of the Yates community, thanks in no small part to her experience as Miss Yates.
The through-line of Miss and Mister Yates titleholders is a sense of responsibility and ownership of their community. The 2023 Miss Yates, 17-year-old senior Briana Webber, is carrying the torch of a valuable and time-honored tradition, and with generations of Miss and Mister Yateses behind her, she will never hurt for inspiration and guidance.