Allison Umfress

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IMGA1102Allison Umfress is a fast talking bundle of creative energy. When conducting an interview, one has to write fast or record the conversation for later review. But one thing comes through loud and clear in her rapid fire expressions of thought-she seems to be ready to make a positive impact on the world by doing what she can to make it a better place.Allison is the daughter of Dean and Judy Umfress. Dean has a dental practice in Southaven and Judy works as a pharmacist in Memphis. Allison also shares the house with her 10 year old brother, Alan.

You wouldn’t know it to hear Allison talk, but she is a native of Mississippi. Born in Jackson, Allison and her family moved to Wisconsin when she was just a year old. They lived there for eight years while her dad attended dental school at Marquette University. The prolonged exposure in the land of cheese seems to have replaced any hint of a southern accent with accelerated speech and an affinity for cold weather. As Allison said (utilizing less than 2 seconds), “There was lots of snow, but I liked the snow. I miss the snow, because there’s never any snow here.” To Allison’s meteorological disappointment, the family moved back to Mississippi to be closer to relatives, settling in Olive Branch.

Allison seems destined to make an impact on the world around her for the better. If her activities and interests outside the classroom are any indication, she is well on her way to doing just that. Every Wednesday, she meets with a group of students who comprise representatives in the Model United Nations organization. Allison described what they do. “We all [form] different delegations where we write up resolutions about issues [related to an assigned country] and we try to get them passed,” she explained. “The resolutions can be on anything that you think is important. Recently we’ve been writing resolutions on torture since that’s been in the news lately, and we’ve been debating that [issue] at all our practice sessions to get ready for our competitions.” She draws satisfaction from debating real world topics in a formal setting with students from other schools in regional meetings. The experience has also been a great benefit in cultivating her speaking skills, “I used to get really nervous talking in front of people,” but she claims that the regular debate process in front of her peers has helped overcome that fear.

While her participation in the Model U. N. gives Allison an insight on what it takes to change the world, her activities with Teens Students Working Against Tobacco (TSWAT) is seeking to change attitudes in the local community. What does TSWAT do? “Right now we are going around to restaurants…trying to get the ones that aren’t smoke free to be smoke free. And we’re going to be putting on some skits for the elementary kids…to try to get people to [avoid] smoking. My grandmother smoked, and she died of lung cancer when I was eight years old,” she said as she explained her motivation for joining in an effort to educate others about the harmful effects of tobacco.

Model U. N. and TSWAT are outlets for expressing her opinion, but there is a creative side to Allison that governs the way she spends her personal time. “I am trying to learn how to play the violin,” Allison said, emphasizing the word “trying”. Part of the difficulty comes from having to learn the stringed instrument on her own. “We looked forever to try to find lessons, but we just could not find anyone who would teach [violin]. I guess the violin’s not very popular,” she concluded. She admits it’s slow going, but one day she really hopes to be able to play Charlie Daniel’s classic, ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’. In Allison’s words, “When I heard that song, I said, ‘I want to do that!'”. Until she gets the hang of playing the violin, Allison passes the time by painting and writing poetry.

But even those pastimes cannot hold a candle to her independence as a new driver. “Now if I want to go somewhere, I don’t have to depend on someone else.” Allison is also hoping to get a part time job to help fund her driving habit, but not just any job. “I’ll probably get one this summer, but I want to do something fun. We know the manager at Skate Odyssey and he said I could get a job there doing kids’ birthday parties,” she explained. The job of “Party Coordinator” really appeals to her despite the fact that she doesn’t like working with kids…go figure.

As far as college and career plans go things are still pretty much up in the air. “I guess if I was going to college now, I would major in some kind of science, but I don’t know where,” Allison said with exasperation. “I don’t want to go anywhere around here. I want to go somewhere up north. I know that much.” Maybe back to Wisconsin and the land of cheese, snow and fast talking people. It could be just like old times.

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