In October of 2011, a group of girls learned that life shouldn’t be taken for granted. This group of girls consists of elementary, middle and high school students. They actively volunteer as the pageant queens of the Mountain View cluster in Lawrenceville, Georgia. From kindergarten to 12th grade, they have been guided by a mentor who challenges them to exhibit kindness with or without their crowns and sashes.
Marilyn Como of Mountain View High School’s Parent Teacher Student Association helped start the pageant program in 2010. She originally was not the girls’ mentor, but as time progressed, she fell in love with the position. She and her team of 18 girls strive to positively impact the community through service-oriented projects.
This special group of girls has a unique opportunity to volunteer, lead, and learn. With Marilyn’s help, they have volunteered at the Special Olympics, Walk for Autism, and Awareness runs. They have met Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia and served with the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation. Events such as Christmas Tree Lightings, Brown Bag Lunches, and underprivileged children programs have been blessed with the Miss Mountain View girls’ service. Marilyn and the girls from Miss Mountain View and a neighboring school received the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Volunteerism award for serving a combined 20,000 hours this past year at the annual Parks and Recreation meeting in Macon, Georgia.
This remarkable woman has not only touched the pageant girls’ lives, but so many others. As a substitute teacher at Mountain View High School, she has positively changed lives of many students. She organized the school wide event, In A Split Second, to bring awareness to the risks of driving under the influence. With her leadership, over 1,500 students witnessed a mock car accident and funeral, thus learning the dangers of mixing alcohol with driving. Mountain View High School’s Principal Keith Chaney says that “Marilyn helped opened the school and cluster. As a three-year-old school, she helped build the community and led organizations such as PTSA and PTA. Marilyn is a self-less woman, she is always available and eager to serve.” Marilyn has also put together other awareness programs such as bullying, self-esteem, drugs, and breast cancer. However, something she advocated suddenly became a part of her life in the blink of an eye.
In June of 2011, Marilyn was diagnosed with breast cancer. At a young age of 48 and with no family history of breast cancer, the diagnosis came as a shock to her and her family. When she was diagnosed with cancer, it changed her life, her family, and her community. Through several MRI’s, biopsies, and tests, doctors at Emory Hospital confirmed that a bilateral mastectomy was required. On October 18th, 2011, Marilyn underwent major surgery, temporarily removing her from her volunteer and leadership positions. When she learned that the cancer was 1 millimeter away from spreading throughout her body, silence spread over the pageant girls, family, friends, and the entire Mountain View community. The community held its breath in anticipation. Her absence had been greatly noticed and her impact on the community was clearly seen during the crisis.
Breast cancer awareness suddenly rose across Gwinnett County. Mountain View High School’s Student Council annually participates in American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and this year, will walk for Marilyn. More mammograms are being done, and more students are becoming aware of breast cancer. Even outside of the state, students at The Benjamin School in Jupiter, Florida, dedicated a football game to Marilyn by wearing pink.
This is only the start of Marilyn’s painful and emotional journey. Her pageant queens are volunteering more than ever to honor her, and students and parents alike are realizing that one’s life could change in an instant.
“I never thought that I would become a statistic of having breast cancer,” Marilyn said. “I just want women to view my experience as a warning sign and to get regular mammograms. Early detection saved my life, and it could save theirs too.” Her testimony has not only been a lighthouse for breast cancer awareness, but also for life itself. A woman so hospitable, kind hearted, and selfless still puts others first, even during her greatest struggle. Her dynamic personality and leadership qualities make her a great hero, mentor, mother, and friend. Even during her recovery, Marilyn is pre-planning Relay for Life, pageants, and PTSA sponsored events. Through her battle with cancer, Marilyn continues to smile, serve, and stay positive. The Mountain View community has forever been changed because of Marilyn Como.
“I can honestly say I’m a stronger, better person from knowing Mrs. Como,” said Mountain View senior Kevin Schatell. “She’s without a doubt one of the nicest, funniest, and most loving people I’ve ever met. She’s completely selfless, and she has inspired me in so many ways. Our community just wouldn’t be the same without her.” A woman so looked up to, so compassionate and so dedicated to helping others, never asks for help in her time of need. She is an incredible warrior who not only puts others first, but reflects on her painful experiences to help others. Marilyn defines what a true leader should be.