Ashlee Yates, Marcel Harris reign as DU’s royals

Dillard’s king and queen for 2008-09 say they are determined to serve as role models as servants not only for the campus, but the entire Gentilly community.

Ashlee K. Yates, a senior international business and Spanish studies major from Memphis, Tenn., and Marcel Harris, a senior public health systems major from Vallejo, Calif., were crowned Nov. 14 at the university’s Homecoming coronation ball at the Astor Crowne Plaza downtown.

Dillard has elected a queen for the past 53 years, but only in the past three has a king been selected to share the “throne of excellence,” as DU describes it.

The royal court includes: Kristin Stein, Senior Class attendant, and escort Jason Alston; Carmelita Foster, Junior Class attendant and escort Cornell Wallace; Brandi Clay, Sophomore Class attendant and escort Darius Miller; and Melanie Bolden, Freshman Class attendant and escort Juan Serrano.

The new Miss Dillard, who has served in three previous courts as freshman, sophomore and junior attendant, said she wants to use her position to demand change.

“I wanted to take part in boosting the morale of the university as well as restoring the prestige, elegance and excellence back to the position of Miss Dillard University,” Yates said. She said her interests include “non-stop, consistent community service” and creating vehicles through students can voice their opinions.

So far, Yates and Harris have combined their efforts to complete a Dillard beautification project, a school supply drive, participation in the United Negro College Fund Walk/Run and the KaBoom playground build. They also have been volunteering at local soup kitchens, they said.

In addition, Harris also was instrumental in the formation of Dillard’s Collegiate 100 Black Men chapter to help African American males in the community, mentor youth and encourage leadership skills.

Yates points to Federal Reserve executive Martha Perine-Beard, for whom she worked, as a role model, along with 2005-06 Miss Dillard Christy Malbrew.

“I started interning for Mrs. Beard fresh out of high school,” said Yates, “Working for the bank with a philanthropist such as Mrs. Beard, I knew early on in my college career that the sky was the limit for me.”Yates said working with Malbrew on the court for three years influenced her vision of how to be effective in the position: “She consistently gave her best and handled her business academically and socially.”

As the first of his family to attend college, Harris said his family has been his inspiration: “My mother and brother are my greatest influences because they keep me motivated and let me know that I am not only representing myself, but my family as a whole.”

He added that 2005-06 Student Government Association President Cortez Watkins is among friends who spoke words of encouragement.

“One day I said to Cortez, ‘Why don’t they have a Mr. Dillard?’ and he responded, ‘You’ll be there four years, so make a change.” Harris said that when the position was created, he knew it was his opportunity to make a change for Dillard students.

“I’ve already left one legacy with…the Collegiate 100, and I plan to leave many more.”