PETERSBURG, Va, (WRIC) — Former Virginia State University student turned Miss USA, Deshauna Barber, is back in Petersburg this weekend celebrating the university’s 2016 homecoming.
This marks Barber’s first visit to her alma mater since winning the national Miss USA title. She told 8News she hopes to bring the football team some luck on Saturday.
Barber is a 2011 VSU grad and army commander. She made history after winning the 2016 Miss USA pageant in June.
“It was so amazing,” Barber said. “I literally don’t have any words to describe what it felt like. It’s a blessing. It truly is. It took a long time coming,” she said.
Barber said she is honored to be back on the Virginia State University campus.
“I can’t believe I’m coming back to Virginia State University as Miss USA,” she said. “Being at Virginia State were some of the best years of my life … so to know I’m coming back here to represent the university and to represent the country obviously is an amazing feeling.”
“I can’t believe I’m coming back to Virginia State University as Miss USA. Being at Virginia State were some of the best years of my life.”
Barber has spent the year promoting her platform.
“My platform is merely focused on creating some dialogue; being able to bring this conversation up in terms of when soldiers return from appointments, knowing that PTSD is definitely an illness and diagnosis that is very important,” she explained. “Suicide rates among our soldiers is so high. I want our families and friends to be considerate when their soldiers come back from deployment to know exactly what signs to look for and to know how to interact with soldiers that may be suffering and what resources they need to use to be able to push their soldiers to get help.”
Barber continues to work as a logistics commander in the United States Army. She says her role is a bit of a juggling act.
“It has been an interesting balance. It definitely is a trail blazing type role because it has never been done before as a Miss USA contestant or as a Miss USA winner,” she said. “I think it just goes to show the versatility of women.”
Students say they find her presence inspiring. They are elated that she was able to take time out of her busy schedule to come interact with them and their families during the homecoming celebrations.
“I’m just excited. Because of her, now I feel like the world is just revolving around me once I graduate,” VSU senior Deja Sumler told 8News.
“It really does show that you don’t have to come from cookie cutter conventional places to do big things,” added VSU freshman Jeremiah Macon.
VSU President Makola Abdullah also noticed a different vibe on campus.
“The students were so excited to see her,” he said. “I think she represents for them everything that they can be. She is a beautiful, strong, and intelligent woman.”
Barber spoke about the role VSU has played in her life.
“It is important to show that coming out of Virginia State University there are so many opportunities,” Barber said. “There are so many things that can happen in terms of your life and your career and chasing your dreams. As a Virginia State Alumni who has really worked so hard to be where she is, [I hope this] inspires all students coming out of this university to do the same thing.”
The VSU Trojans start their homecoming football game against Lincoln Saturday at 2 p.m.