By Billy Corriher
Jamie Howard will fulfill a lifelong dream in three weeks when she flashes a bright smile and strolls down the aisle in her red evening gown, waving to the crowd.
Howard is representing Clayton County in the Mrs. Georgia USA pageant on April 4 at the Gwinnett Civic Center.
"I've always wanted to do a pageant like this," she said.
Howard, 25, said she wanted to enter the Miss Georgia USA pageant after graduating high school, but couldn't because she got married.
"When I saw the Mrs. Georgia pageant on television, I got really excited," she said.
The Mrs. Georgia USA pageant is for married women. The event features a swimsuit competition, an evening gown contest and an interview session.
"It's opened up a whole new world for me," she said. "I just love the glamour? and I've got a good excuse to shop."
Howard said she is passing on her love of fashion and beauty to her seven-year-old daughter, Sierra.
"We play with make-up and do our hair all the time," she said.
Howard also has a six-year-old son, Christian, and an 18-month-old son, David. Though she married her husband, Raymondo, when she was very young, Howard said her mother and father were very supportive when they started a family.
"It all worked out," she said. "I'm very happy."
Even though the young couple is not thinking about having more children of their own, Howard said she might eventually want to adopt or serve as a foster parent for more children.
Family has always been important to her, and now Howard works as the director of teen programs at Divine Faith Ministries International in Jonesboro, where her father, Donald Battle, is the preacher.
Howard said she has worked in many capacities at the church, but working with local teenagers is her favorite job.
"I've developed a lot of good relationships," she said. "I've seen a lot of teenagers change for the better."
The most important part of her job, Howard said, is working with teens on their self-esteem.
"I've found that most teens get in trouble when they aren't comfortable with themselves," she said.
Howard said God and the church play an enormous role in her life.
"Everything we do, we consult God," she said.
Howard's two sisters, her mother and her husband also work at the church.
Vonnie Battle, her oldest sister, is in charge of the church's recording studio, where Howard sometimes sings for the church's gospel albums.
Battle said her family is excited about the pageant, and her sister will have a big cheering section.
"She has a lot of support here," she said.
The staff at Divine Faith Ministries International is even sponsoring Howard, along with former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell and Dental One in College Park.
After the Mrs. Georgia USA pageant, Howard said she hopes to represent Clayton County in the Mrs. Georgia America pageant this summer.
"There's also the Miss Christian America pageant in October," she said. "I've been waiting a long time to do this. I'm going to do as many as I can."