Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs


With the November election less than a month away, inevitably people start to ask me “Nathan, who should I vote for?”

Obviously, they don’t recall that I have made it a practice not to endorse in local races . Instead, I believe our community has many opportunities to meet and learn about these candidates and can decide on your own who to support.

For example, you can catch candidates for County Council visiting the Ballentine Dutch Fork Civic Association or all the School Board candidates at this year’s voting forums . Many officials and candidates attended the 9th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast while some attend Irmo and Chapin chamber events . In the next few weeks, my guess is you’ll receive a lot of literature from these candidates and maybe even a visit at your front door step from a candidate or two.

Take time to read, learn and even ask questions before deciding whom to support. While some in the community will show up to vote (which, based on low turnout is actually more than the majority of people in the state will do), others will choose to display signs, make calls, and contribute financially. Whatever level of support you wish to give, do so in favor of your candidate and not campaigning negatively about other candidates.

Please look at the issues, the job and the candidates qualifications. If there are votes some officials have cast that you don’t like, that’s a legitimate concern. If there’s an issue one candidate addresses more than another candidate, maybe that’s your guy/gal. But please don’t succumb to personal vendettas or he said/she said spats that do nothing but divert attention from building up our community. And PLEASE don’t resort to vandalizing/removing signs of an opponent. We’re better than that in Chapin and Irmo.

One last thing that’s been on my mind for sometime is this – our school board currently has no minority representation. With seven members chosen to represent a district that has a diverse population from elementary schools to our high schools, shouldn’t our board be more diverse?

I hope you’ll get out and vote Tuesday, November 4th. Please check your Voter Registration Card to be sure you go to the correct precinct and remember to bring a photo ID with you to the polls!

2014 Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

2014 Prayer Breakfast Invite

Years ago, Representative Huggins and I wanted to do provide something for Irmo that was missing. Chapin has their Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and we felt Irmo could benefit from something similar as well.

We continue to rotate among churches in the area and would love to bring to your church in the coming years! This year we’re back at Gateway Baptist (site of our 3rd Annual Prayer Breakfast years ago). Next year, plans are to have St. Paul AME Church host the 10th Annual event in their new facility!

Thanks to the support of our sponsors, we’ve been able to provide the event for FREE to the community the past few years and hope to continue to do so!

To sponsor ($100 for table of 8) or to simply RSVP a free spot for the event, email Mary Lou Stinson at or call her directly at 351-5197.

This year’s speaker is Chris Joye (too many titles and accolades to list, so I’ll share his most important), father. Chris will share the Mark Joye story. Mark is a recent Wofford College graduate and former standout golfer at Dutch Fork High School.

Chip and I look forward to another packed house later this month! If you’ve never joined us, please click on the links below to see videos and programs from years past.

8th Annual- Program
7th Annual – Video and Program
6th Annual – Video and Program
5th Annual – Video and Program
4th Annual – Video and Program
3rd Annual – Video and Program
2nd Annual – program

UPDATE: Richard Franklin Road improvements

2014 Richard Franklin Road

Those living in the area have seen the signs, trucks, pylons, and markings that signal the beginning of much awaited repairs to the area. Earlier this year I shared what was in the works and last month shared the latest .

I want to thank you for your patience and especially the SC DOT for bringing this project to fruition.

Below is detailed information so you’ll know what’s going on and so you’ll be patient as the work will cause some inconveniences in the coming weeks.

The roadway that is being reclaimed is State Road S-40-1333. The road names associated with this work and limits are as follows:

• Lowman Home Barn Road
o From the intersection of Lowman Home Road (S-40-216) (3 way intersection) to Johnson Marina Road (S-40-618)
o ~0.3 miles
o Reclamation, widen shoulder 2 ft each side, resurface

• Richard Franklin Road
o From Johnson Marina (S-40-618) to Wonder Dr / Old Road (S-40-1333 Loop)
o ~0.95 miles
o Reclamation, widen shoulder 2 ft each side, resurface

• Wonder Drive / Old Road
o Loop Road
o ~1.06 miles
o Reclamation and resurfacing only

The total roadway work is ~2.31 miles in length. The approximate costs for this work was estimated to be in excess of $533,000 but may be less due to the actual amount of cement used in the reclamation process based on the design.

UPDATE: Making that commute easier…on your eyes


Tuesday, I shared the story brought to me from Richland residents about the need to improve the entrace ways into the Capital City.

I reached out to the key players (City of Columbia, SCDOT, Dept of Corrections, Richland County) and am pleased to share with you what I received yesterday from the SC Department of Transportation. Sometimes “the wheels of government” move very slowly. Not this time!


I have met with City Officials to discuss our upcoming activities and we both agree that coordination of our efforts would have most public benefit. Therefore, the following activities outlined below will run concurrently beginning on Monday, August 25th:

• In preparation for the 3rd Cycle Interstate median barrier wall sweeping/cleaning. Herbicide spraying of the center median as well as the retaining walls adjoining the emergency lanes will start on Monday. This operation will be in both Lexington and Richland (Columbia Metropolitan Area) Counties with I-126 being the first location.
• Starting Monday, August 25th, two crews will beginning cutting and removing vegetation (Inbound – after peak traffic period) along the retaining walls on I-126 between Greystone Blvd and the Charleston Flyover. I expect this operation to be completed by Thursday, August 28th.
• The center median barrier wall sweeping operation will remain on its current schedule to due to coordination with Highway Patrol, other Districts, and major area events for September 20th – 25th.
• We will maintain continuous litter/debris removal of the mainline and emergency lanes on the interstates as necessary.

City of Columbia:
• Pruning and manicuring the ornamental trees specifically in areas covering destination/directional signs and overhanging the emergency lanes on I-126 between Huger/Elmwood tri-level and Greystone Blvd to begin on Monday, August 25th.
• Trimming vegetation growing the median area on I-126 from Huger/Elmwood tri-level to the Congaree River.
• Spraying herbicide in unsightly areas as needed.
• Policing for litter in the median along the areas where there is guardrail.

This approach and coordinated effort should go a long way to improving one of the many gateways into the Capital City.


Kennedy era gets underway at Irmo

From Midlands High School Visit often for updates during the season!

By Emerson Phillips

Longtime Irmo head football coach Bob Hanna retired this past offseason. New head coach Reggie Kennedy now guides the tradition-rich Yellow Jackets’ program. Kennedy has won everywhere he’s coached. And because his approach has been successful in the past, it will not change at Irmo.

“Everybody’s buying in,” Kennedy said. “One of things I’ve done is try to keep the terminology as close as possible to last year. So I try to make the transition more than the kids. One thing I tell our coaches is that we do the thinking, and the kids do the playing.”

Last year Kennedy led Sumter to the state championship game after the Gamecocks had gotten off to a bit of a slow start to begin the season. Kennedy knows Irmo’s history, and he’s driven to maintain it.

“Our #1 goal is to win a state championship every year,” Kennedy said. “First we want to have a winning season. We want to win the region championship. And we want to win the state championship.”

But is winning the state championship a realistic goal in Kennedy’s first year at Irmo?

“I believe we have a chance,” he said. “You have to get hot at the right time. Our practices are designed to keep the kids fresh. Sometime you can burn kids out by midseason. They get tired of football. A lot of times, kids hear the first basketball bounce and they’re ready to head to the gym. The way we do practice, we keep the fire burning all season. By the time the playoffs start, our guys are still having fun and they’re still fresh. Our practices are designed to keep the kids fresh.”

Irmo has a solid group of returning players, but Kennedy says he and his staff will have to develop some less-experienced players as the season goes along for Irmo to meet that lofty goal.

“We’ve got a lot of potential here,” Kennedy said. “We’re gonna be young up front. We have some experience at the skill positions. We can match up with a lot of folks at the skill positions. But we gotta have consistent play at quarterback, and we gotta get better up front. D-line we’re a little undersized, but we’re really athletic. We can run. And the style of defense we’ll play is a running defense. It’s the same defense (Irmo) ran last year.”

“Our leader will be Manny Banks, our wide receiver,” Kennedy continued. “Good kid, good runner. Hard worker. He’s getting better. The biggest thing is he needs to learn how to separate from DBs, and he’s getting better at that. He’s picked up a lot over the summer.” Banks (5-11, 180) already has an offer from Georgia State, and Georgia Southern is showing interest.

Senior quarterback Anthony Jones (5-10, 170) suffered a leg fracture last year and missed most of the season. But now he’s healthy, and he’s battling for the starting job with junior Mason Smith (5-10, 180), who started at QB for the JV team last year. Kennedy says Jones is more of a runner, while Smith is more of a passing threat. But there isn’t likely to be a platoon situation at quarterback.

“I like to go with one guy,” Kennedy said. “Platoon doesn’t work for me, I always have back luck with that,” he said with a chuckle.

Kennedy’s excited about his starting running back, junior Ronnie Jamison (6-1, 185). “He’s got the potential to be one of the best backs in the Midlands this year,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says sophomore slot receiver Jeffrey Thorpe has been impressive during preseason practice. “He’s surprised us,” Kennedy said. “He’s real good in space. Quick. He can catch the ball real well. He’ll probably be a starter.”

Senior AJ Robinson (6-0, 265) returns at center. “He’ll be our leader on the offensive line.”
Kennedy says his linebackers are the strength of the defense. Senior Juwan Freeman MLB (5-10, 190) is a second-year starter. Joe Boyd (5-11, 200) will start at inside linebacker.

Junior free safety Philip Barrett is the leader of the secondary. Junior Nicholas Jenkins played JV last year and will start at cornerback.

“We’ll play by platoon on the defensive line,” Kennedy said.
Irmo should be solid on special teams. Kennedy places extra emphasis on that aspect of the game. “Our kids know we take special teams seriously. We work on it every day in practice. We want to score on special teams.”

Kennedy’s a proven winner, and his success is due in no small part to the fact that he excels at relating to today’s younger generation.

“A lot of that comes with building relationships away from the field,” he said. “Kids have changed over the years. You just have to find different ways to communicate with them. You get to know kids and find out a lot about their character when you’re dealing with them off the field. So I make it a point to talk to my guys off the field.”

Let the Kennedy era begin at Irmo.

Chapin ready to defend Region Crown

From Midlands High School Visit them often for updates during the year!

By Emerson Phillips

Last year Chapin High won its first football region title in 21 years. Chapin fans are excited about the job fifth-year head coach Justin Gentry is doing.

“They are,” Gentry said. “We’re trying to get back to the days of Coach Woolbright and Coach Muldrow, when Chapin football was legit. We’re trying to separate ourselves. It’s a work in progress.”

And it’s a work that took a major step forward last year. Chapin went undefeated in the region. But Gentry feels Chapin is still seeking respect in Midlands’ high school football circles.

“Even though we were 5-0 and coming off the region championship, we don’t have an ‘X’ on our backs,” Gentry said. “We’re picked to finish second or third in the region every year. But that’s ok. That’s what helps drive our ship. I actually thrive off that and use it as motivation. I’ve never done the history of Midlands football, but Chapin is probably traditionally one of the strongest schools in the Midlands in modern history. We want to build this program back to prominence.”

Chapin will have a new quarterback in 2014. Last year Matt Charpia ended his Eagles’ career as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards. Junior Logan Bailey (6-0, 200) is penciled in as the starter at QB in 2014.

“Logan brings a different style to the table,” Gentry said. “Matt ran if he needed to. Logan will make plays with his legs. He’s got a pretty good arm. But the pass will be set up a lot more by his legs as opposed to true drop-back.”

Freshman QB Trad Beatty will be the backup and has had a good summer.

“Trad came into the season as the #3 quarterback, he’s now #2 and making a pretty good push,” Gentry said. “He’s 14 years old. His biggest weakness right now is arm strength. But he’s about 6-foot-2 and he’s gone be a big ol’ kid.”

Evan Estridge will start at wide receiver and serve as the #3 QB.

“Evan will be there if we need him,” Gentry said.

Junior Ben Fischer is the #1 running back. He played both JV and varsity last year.
“Ben has done everything to deserve and earn the right to be our starting tailback,” Gentry said. He has not missed a workout this year. He’s busted his tail. But there’s still some competition in that department.”

Chandler Engle will get some carries as well as a spot runner, and he’s a two-time all-region selection at linebacker. He’s a Wofford baseball commit.
Matthew Nalley (6-1, 260) is a senior and a second-year starter at right tackle.

“He’s super, he’s a rock,” Gentry said. “Matt’s done a great job.”

Stephen Haralambis (6-3, 270) is another outstanding veteran who will play both ways this year..

“We’ve moved Stephen Haralambis from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive side,” Gentry said. “Right now he has sealed up the center spot. And he’ll play some defensive tackle for us too. He’s being recruited as an offensive lineman because of his size.”

Haralambis has an offer from Charleston Southern. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are also showing interest.

Haralambis, Matthew Bickley (6-0, 215) and Will Register will start on the defensive line. Bickley’s a senior. Register’s just a sophomore, and he’ll play H-back/Tight End also.

Junior Garrett Reinhart (6-1, 190) is a newcomer who will start at inside linebacker. Junior Caleb White (6-1, 175) will play receiver and safety. Caleb’s older brother Carter was a standout for Chapin last year, and he’s now playing football at Presbyterian College.

“Caleb’s gone be just as good as Carter, if not better,” Gentry said.

Senior Nate Blankenship is a third-year starter at safety and he’ll play receiver also. Noah Schelble (6-1, 175) will play receiver and defensive back. Schelble started at safety last year.

“There’s no words to describe Nate and Noah,” Gentry said. “They’re our heart and soul. We feel like our defense can be as good as anybody else’s just with those two guys back there.”

Senior receiver/cornerback Rakeem “Rock” Ricard (5-11, 180) is another player Gentry is high on. Ricard was hurt in the first game last year but is back in 2014.

“He’s the epitome of hard work,” Gentry said. “He’s fully healthy and ready to rock ‘n roll. He benches 325 and squats 500. He’ll be on the radar as a recruit as soon as the season starts.”

AC Flora might be the popular preseason pick to with the region, but Gentry likes his club’s chances at a second straight region crown.

“I feel like come region time, we can be in the mix,” Gentry said. “We’ve changed the mindset here. When we go on the field, our boys feel like we can win now. It wasn’t easy trying to change that mentality here. Our boys have really bought into what we’re trying to do.”

Chapin opens the regular season August 22 at home against Columbia High. The Eagles play in Region 4-3A with AC Flora, Camden, Dreher, Lower Richland and Richland Northeast.

Dutch Fork Eager to Defend State Championship

Dutch Fork dominated Sumter and routed the Gamecocks 54-14 last December at Williams-Brice Stadium to give DFHS its’ first-ever football state championship.

From Midlands High School Sports website !
Visit often for updates on Dutch Fork and our other teams: Chapin and Irmo

by Emerson Phillips

For head coach Tom Knotts and the Silver Foxes, the view from the mountain top sure is nice.

“I think the kids would say they were just relieved at first,” Knotts said. “When we finally figured out what we had done, we had a great December and January. It was high fives all around the school. It’s fun climbing to the top.”

When Knotts was hired by Dutch Fork prior to the start of the 2010 season, he brought a sterling reputation with him. He had already won seven state championships as a head coach in North Carolina – one at West Charlotte High and six at Independence High. His Independence teams won a national public-school record 109 consecutive games.

He’s only enhanced his reputation with two trips to the state finals in his four years at Dutch Fork. But Knotts has never been one to rest on his laurels, and he’s making sure his team keeps its feet firmly on the ground as it prepares for the new season.

This year the headliner on offense is prolific senior running back Matt Colburn (5-8, 198), a Louisville commit. As a sophomore, Colburn ran for 400 yards in a single game versus Lexington. Now he’s a state champ, and he’s ready for his senior year.

“We gotta keep Matt healthy because he is the heart and soul of the team,” Knotts said.

Matt’s younger brother Chris, a sophomore, will serve as the backup at RB. “Chris and Matt look just alike,” Knotts said. “Chris is a little smaller, but he’s just as strong and almost as fast. He probably doesn’t have Matt’s vision right now, but I think he’s gonna be good.”

Junior Clayton Jones (5-10, 180) is also in the mix at running back. “He has some nifty moves, and he’s got a little stuff about him,” Knotts said. “Stephen Davis hasn’t taken any reps, but he’s certainly going to get some reps at running back next year. Jo’mal Aiken could move back to running back. Lane Ecton could go to running back. I’m really not concerned about running back, I just don’t want them to get hurt.”

Senior Tate Fant (6-3, 195) takes over as the starting quarterback after Derek Olenchuk graduated last year.

“Even though our quarterback is untested, he’s been our JV starter for two years in the same system,” Knotts said. “And I call the plays on Thursday night (for the JV team). So Tate’s been running the same plays for two years and he shouldn’t miss a beat.”

Knotts says Dutch Fork has six wide receivers that can play.

“Alec DeBoer’s ahead of all of them,” Knotts said. “But then we got five that can fly. They’re fast, they’re rangy. This is among the top two or three groups of receivers that I’ve ever had in 33 years of coaching, but they’re raw.”

“Unlike last year, we feel like we’ve got a lot of team speed, especially at the receiver position,” Knotts continued. “Junior Jo’mal Aiken and sophomore Bobby Irby are my slot guys. They’re quick as a hiccup, they can put their foot in the ground and go. Then my speedsters are sophomore Austin Connor, senior Will Sweeper and another sophomore Ward Hacklen.”

Former Gamecock Jason Barnes coaches the receivers at DF – Barnes played for Knotts at Independence.

Up front, the Silver Foxes return two full-time starters. Senior Montel Smith (6-0, 280) is back at center, and senior Tyler Fiedler (5-10, 225) returns at left guard. Sophomore left tackle Malik Sumter (6-1, 275) moved into a starting role during last year’s playoffs. Seniors Glenn Niles (6-0, 200) and Grayson Johnson (6-3, 235) will fil out the O-line. Both started for the JV team last year.

Tight ends have played a major role in Knotts’ offense at Dutch Fork. This year Kyle Olenchuk (5-11, 215) moves from center/guard to tight end. “He’s a big, thick kid. He’s a student of the game, and he can dominate the edge with his blocking. We’re trying to find another tight end. We’ve got several others trying to play the other tight end position, but so far nobody’s stepped up. But competition is good, that’s what tends to make you better. ”

The defense returns eight starters.

“I like our defense,” Knotts said. “They’re a little bit big headed right now because they had a great championship game against Sumter. But that’s what you start to deal with once you’ve reached the championship is the complacency of some of the coaches and some of the kids. They think ‘been there and done that, gone do it again.’ But football doesn’t work like that.”

DF1“Our leader obviously is Lane Ecton in the secondary,” Knotts said. “I think he’s a legit D1 player. He’s committed to Georgia Southern. But I think he’s an ACC-level player, and I think some people are missing the boat on him. He’s a legit 4.5 (forty-yard dash). Georgia Southern’s a great school, don’t get me wrong. But I’m hoping he really shows out this year and somebody big comes along and offers him.”

Ecton (5-11, 190) will be a third-year starter. He was region defensive player of the year last year. Junior Stephen Davis (6-4, 208) returns for his third year as a starter at safety. Davis recently committed to play at Auburn.

Dutch Fork’s linebacker leader is Mick Lusk (5-10, 205). “He’s very instinctive,” Knotts said. “He can really play the game.”

Knotts said DF has three players who can rush the passer. They’re senior Dominique Scott (5-11, 210), senior Andrew Dunlap 6-1, 215) and senior David Tillman (5-11, 195).

“Tillman’s so special, I call him ‘The Freak,’” Knotts said. “He can really run and jump and go get ‘em.”

The kicking game should be in good shape. “We got a special punter and kicker in Tyler Bass. He kicked what, four or five field goals in the state championship game. He can kick field goals up to 50 (yards out). He’s a good one.”

Dutch Fork opens the regular season against Greenwood on August 22 as part of “The Battle On The Bluff” at River Bluff High in Lexington. Greenwood won the 2012 Class 4A-D2 state title. Former North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin is the new head coach at Greenwood.

“Dan Pippin’s one of the top five coaches in the state,” Knotts said.

The Silver Foxes then get a week off before heading to Texas to play Allen High, the reigning 5A state champs in the Lone Star state.

Knotts says Allen has six D1 recruits and 700 members in the marching band. Allen’s new $60 million stadium was recently condemned due to cracks in the foundation. So DF will face Allen High in Plano, TX.

“If I had known that stadium was condemned, I wouldn’t have chosen (to play) them,” Knotts said. “But I think this game will only help our program, and I think we’ll represent South Carolina well.”

Chapin Labor Day Parade: US Senator Tim Scott

2014 Tim Scott logo

Everyone knows in two weeks, Chapin will host our annual Labor Day Festival & Parade !

One staple of the holiday has always been the annual Parade that is filled with children, ball teams, churches, service groups, and politicians (although I prefer “public servant”).

This year I’ve decided to walk and support one of my former State House colleagues, and current United States Senator, Tim Scott ! Representative Huggins also plans to walk with us; so Chip and I will leave our banners, t-shirts and signs at home; and will look forward to seeing you and your family along the parade route with our friend, Tim.

If you’d like to join us along the parade route, contact me here and I can make it happen. As usual, you’ll see many other public servants from our local school board to statewide officials, as well as Congressman Joe Wilson and US Senator Lindsey Graham.

Want some BBQ and support Senator Tim Scott? You can do that at the home of JoAnn and Bill Dukes (523 Caro Lane, Chapin) from 12:30 to 1:30. Please give Drea Byers a call at 804-413-5951 or email her at to hold your spot. $50 per person / $100 per family.

2014 Tim Scott

(A sight for sore eyes?) Welcome to the Capital City!

2014 Highway 3

Is this really what you (or others) want to see everday coming into our Capital City?

Recently, residents in Downtown Columbia called me and asked to meet to discuss an important matter to them. I had no idea what we’d be discussing; but felt if they wanted to meet, it must be important to them – and I’m glad I took the meeting.

Simply put: they talked about the need to “clean up the entrance way to Columbia”.

2014 Highway 1

Of course during the meeting, the conversation expanded to the overall amount of litter across our state. This obviously isn’t the first time someone’s noticed and mentioned this in our state ; but I decided the problem warranted attention and so I’m working to see that their wish comes to fruition. The good news, is we all know of the the efforts to clean up litter… Keep Midlands Beautiful , Adopt-a-Highway , etc. What stood out to me though wasn’t so much the litter, it’s the “other stuff” that adds to the clutter and really doesn’t present the image I think we’d all like to see for our Capital City.

Weeds. Overgrowth. Broken “green tops” in the median. I’m not even talking about the debris that can happen any given day. Regardless of financial resources, surely we can find a way to get this cleaned up – and kept cleaned up?

Years ago, I received a letter from a Homeowner Association for having a few centipede strings growing over the curb to the road. Who sends the letter when we see things like this around the state? And whom does that letter go to?

Today, I followed up with the SC Department of Transportation after receiving some preliminary information from their office earlier this month. I decided I’d “send a letter” to them and also include the SC Department of Corrections, Richland County, and the City of Columbia as well.

As the residents shared with me “imagine what visitors to the (Riverbanks) Zoo and the city think? What about businesses that are considering coming here – you think they like that first impression?

Let’s see if we can get this cleaned up for the Midlands. Especially for the entrance ways to the Capital City!

2014 Highway 2

Meet K. Lee Graham: Miss Teen USA 2014

2014 Akil 2 K Lee

Pictured above is our very own K. Lee Graham, rising senior at Chapin High School, with Principal Akil Ross.

As you know, I like to share news about neibhors in the community! Feel free to share me any news you’d like me to share with the Ballentine/Chapin/Dutch Fork/Irmo Community. To see a few of the other “Meet your Neighbor” posts, click here.

From The Post and Courier:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A 17-year-old woman from Chapin is the new Miss Teen USA.

K. Lee Graham won the crown Saturday night in the Bahamas.

Graham plans to spend her yearlong reign promoting her Beauty Secrets campaign, emphasizing that being beautiful is about being happy with who you are and how you treat others instead of striving for an impossible model of perfection.

She has her own blog at where she writes about her journey to the national pageant and her life. A month before the national pageant, she was volunteering for Vacation Bible School at her church.

On her blog, she sums up her platform on beauty this way: “Beauty is not based on the way you look. Beauty stems from your character, from the way you treat others, from your service, and from your faith.”

From the Miss Teen USA website:

K. Lee is both artistic and academic. Theatre is her passion, throughout middle and high school she has been involved in local productions and studied drama at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities intensive summer programs. K. Lee is committed to her studies, taking on challenging courses which have earned her a Number 1 class rank.

She also has a passion for working with children, and volunteers on a weekly basis with her church’s Children’s Ministry in addition to volunteering with many other organizations such as the USO, the American Heart Association, Christ Central Ministries, LifeChangers, and the Arthritis Foundation throughout the past year. Being Miss South Carolina Teen USA has enabled K. Lee to promote her Live Beautifully campaign, encouraging girls across her state to find true beauty by embracing themselves, others, and their communities by speaking to schools, growing the Live Beautifully blog, and planning the first Live Beautifully Day.


Graham won her first title at age 10 and since has been crowned four more times. She started out as Miss Olanta Gator Festival, now known as the Olanta Fall Festival, in Florence before going on to win the titles of Miss Chapin High School, Miss Lexington Teen USA and Miss Lake Murray Teen USA.

From E!Online website

1. She Changed Her Name Because of Her Big Sister: K. Lee is actually short for Katherine Lee. When she was born, her one-year-old sis had trouble pronouncing the brunette’s name, so she simply called her “K.” The cute nickname has stuck ever since!

2. She Has Her Own Blog That Empowers Young Women: K. Lee hopes to encourage other girls to find true beauty on the inside with her blog, Live Beautifully. “[My blog] has become an outlet for me to address and express some of my opinions about issues regarding body image, self-esteem and personal identity that young adults are challenged with every day,” she wrote.

3. She’s Got Beauty and Brains: Miss South Carolina takes her studies very seriously. The high school junior is at the top of her class and loves writing. She is currently working toward attending the University of South Carolina Honors College!

4. She Maintains a Healthy Lifestyle—Even On Her Birthday: K. Lee has been a vegetarian since 2011 and declares kale as her favorite food! She stays in shape with regular workouts consisting of Pilates, resistance training and cardio. Even on her birthday, she posted this Instagram pic of her nutritious meal. “I love cooking healthy, clean foods and working out! Love this Citrus Kale salad from @ToneItUp and my favorite protein pancakes, which were my substitute for actual birthday cake!” she shared.

5. She Loves to Perform: The Southern beauty queen has a passion for theater, dance, singing and acting. She studied drama at the South Carolina Governor’s School and has been involved in local productions since middle school.

6. She Gives Back to the Community: The 17-year-old volunteers every week with her church’s Children’s Ministry and has worked with other organizations like the USO, the American Heart Association and LifeChangers over the past year.

k lee graham crown