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franklin county times

Distinguished Through the Decades: 1994, Melanie (Hargett) Collum

Progress 2022: Distinguished Through the Decades

Growing up in Franklin County, Melanie (Hargett) Collum was often involved in pageants. Junior Miss was, however, something different.

“I think the thing about DYW that makes it different is they are looking for the all-American high school girl,” said Collum, who reigns as the county’s 1994 Junior Miss. “I think the interview is so important for that program, as well as your grades. That’s what attracted me the most. It’s just a wholesome program. It’s just about being well rounded and being All-American.”

Collum, daughter of local program coordinator Susan Hargett, grew up watching her mother plan and direct the program each year, and she has continued to admire Hargett’s dedication to its success. “My mother’s passion is education – always has been,” Collum said. “She’s always invested in kids, and she can always see the potential in a kid that doesn’t see the potential in themselves.”

Of course, the year Collum competed, Hargett stepped down from the program. Named Franklin County’s representative, Collum said she remembers her excitement about getting to miss a week of school, go to Montgomery and represent her home.

“That week at Montgomery – it’s an amazing week,” said Collum, recounting the way her host family took care of her every need and the way all the girls – despite being from different backgrounds and different parts of the state – came together and became friends. Collum said she and the other county winners were “wined and dined,” so to speak, and made to feel special.

“You feel valued. It made you feel important, and you are so proud to be there to represent your county,” she said. “It was just so much fun. It wasn’t the pressures of competition.”

Despite that overall takeaway, Collum did say the experience was a notable challenge – particularly the interview component.

“The interview I had that week was the hardest interview I had ever been through in my life,” she said. “After that, I was prepared  for anything that came my way.” Collum said like many high school students, she wasn’t knowledgeable about current politicians or hot button news topics – the very things she was quizzed on at state. “It made me realize it was time – that I needed to grow up and follow things like that and have an opinion and be able to voice my opinion.”

At the University of North Alabama, Collum was named Miss UNA 1998. She majored in communications, a degree that ultimately led her to her current role in pharmaceutical sales.

“I have always loved marketing and PR,” explained Collum. “I wanted to work for a marketing firm, but there aren’t a lot of those in the Florence area.” In high school she had found it an easy task to sell ads for the yearbook or get sponsors for a program; she was an active member of most clubs and groups, and she also cheered, played basketball, ran track and was in the senior play, so there was always a need for a sponsor for something. She said she realized she could put that natural talent into selling products. After a brief stint with a telecommunications company, and at her husband’s encouragement, she gave pharmaceutical sales a try in 2000 – and found her niche.

“To be in any kind of sales, you have to believe in your product,” she said – and she does. “It’s all about the right product for the right patient at the right time. You really feel like you’re making a difference and helping people.” She said she has a passion for helping people get access to the best healthcare possible.

She and husband Jon live in Muscle Shoals and have three children: Saylor, 18, Kate, 15, and Caston, 10. Their activities and interests are the main way Collum spends time outside of work; her daughters have been involved in dance and cheer, and all three of her children play sports. “We’re having fun. That’s what we’re doing,” Collum said, noting she has found immense contentment. “I’m perfectly happy. It couldn’t get any better.”

Of DYW, Collum gets a bird’s-eye view of the local program each year – through her mother’s continued passion for it.

“Every year this week comes up, I just watch her. She cares so much about it, and she puts so much into it,” Collum said. “It is a great program. I would love to see more girls do it. Everyone should go through a program like that and come out with more self-esteem than when they went into it.”

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