Small towns throughout modest states like Mississippi often produce big dreamers – like University of Southern Mississippi graduate Megan Keyes.
Except in Keyes’ case, the Taylorsville, Miss., native learned that she simply had not been dreaming on a large enough scale. A senior capstone project in Sport Coaching Education opened her eyes to that life-changing reality.
With tutelage from Dr. Brian Gearity, assistant professor in the School of Human Performance and Recreation at Southern Miss, Keyes composed an autobiographical poem/performance piece titled, “Narratives of Sport Pedagogies: The Poetic Representation of Life Beyond Dreams.” After wowing Gearity and her classmates with the poem, Keyes drew rave reviews from attendees at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry in Champagne, Ill.
“The people were so humble and welcomed me with open arms,” said Keyes, 23, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Jackson State University. “That experience made me realize that I wasn’t dreaming big enough or giving myself credit for the abilities I have. While at the conference I decided to push myself more to complete projects like this and expect more of myself.”
For the capstone project, Gearity asked students to write a story that connects their lives with an important aspect of sport coaching. Keyes constructed a unique poem that included six short narratives about people she grew up around/with, intertwining the topics of race, gender, success and failure.
To say her work exceeded Gearity’s expectations would be a gross understatement.
“I had Megan for two previous classes and I tried to ‘fix’ or ‘colonize’ her style to fit the traditional, academic tone,” said Gearity. “When she was let loose to be creative, she absolutely killed the assignment. Just goes to show you that teachers need to be open to diverse forms of learning, student engagement and representation of ‘research.’ ”
Keyes’ poem also caught the attention of the prestigious research journal “Cultural Studies óCritical Methodologies, which has agreed to publish the piece in an upcoming edition.
An honor graduate from the Class of 2006 at Taylorsville High School, Keyes excelled in basketball and softball. She earned a softball scholarship to Jones Junior College in Ellisville, Miss., and spent two years there before continuing pursuit of her bachelor’s degree at Southern Miss.
What Keyes may lack in physical stature, she makes up for in perseverance and determination. A single mother to 3-year-old son, Trentidy Keyes, this Golden Eagle has her sights focused on a limitless sky.
“Although the struggles of trying to be a great Mom and a great scholar are tough, I manage to do both,” said Keyes. “Being a single mother is my motivation to strive for success. Nothing has stopped me thus far from becoming the professional I want to be, and nothing will.”
Keyes said she her idea for the poem sprang from her experiences as a youngster growing up around esteemed sports figures from the Taylorsville area. The following is an excerpt from her acclaimed poem:
Not all decisions made by each guy were bad
especially considering the situations each one had.
To become successful and happy with themselves
was an achievement all by itself,
just to witness each one perform was beauty like nothing else.
Ten years from now, Keyes envisions herself penning a bestseller, while nurturing a successful career in coaching on the collegiate level. And the small-town spitfire is quick to credit Southern Miss with helping shape the woman she has become.
“I would like to thank the university for recognizing my hard work and allowing Dr. Gearity to help his students in his own way. My experience at USM has been life-changing,” said Keyes.
“And I would like to express words of encouragement to all students attending college. If you believe it, you can achieve it is the oldest saying in the book, but I am living proof that if you believe, you can do anything.”