Marina Harrison during a meeting at the Maryland Department of Education.
elementary school days, Marina Harrison
was known to teachers as a "Chatty Cathy."
grew, though, she
verbal skills to good use.By eighth grade she
was hosting the "Top 5" talk show on the morning announcements at Bates Middle School
"We'd do the top five songs of the week," the 25-year-old Severn resident recalled."It was so corny, but we lived for it."
As the voice behind the morning announcements, Ms. Harrison
realized early on she
was good at talking, and passionate about it.So in her
teen years, she
formed a strategic plan to pave her
way toward a rewarding career in communications.
The 1999 Meade High School graduate said that plan has taken her
wildest dreams.She served as the student member of the county school board during her senior year, represented Maryland in the Miss America and Miss USA pageants and, as a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education, has spoken to thousands of students about finding their passion early.
Today, the ambitious young professional is the public information officer for Maryland's Office of the Secretary of State
"I'm really lucky," she
said.A tireless advocate for public education, Ms. Harrison launched her "Start Today" tour in 2003, giving motivational speeches at roughly 150 schools across the state and nation.
"I had (students) repeat after me, 'I can be what I want to be someday.But if I really, really want it, I've got to start today,' " she
said."When I say 'Find your passion,' in the same way, I'm saying, 'Find your identity.' "Ms. Harrison
found hers early on.During the 1998-99 school year, she
helped set policies and make budgetary decisions as the student member of the county school board.
Last year, Ms. Harrison
was one of 10 semifinalists in the Miss USA competition, an experience she
"When I got to Miss USA, I was in my element," she
said."I just really relaxed and soaked up the moment."
In December, she
communications skills to the next level by taking the job in the Office of the Secretary of State
efforts on international relations, charitable registration and community outreach.She also coordinates the office's public speaking bureau and serves as press liaison.
Secretary of State Mary D. Kane said she
expanded Ms. Harrison's
post to include playing a major role in the Maryland Sister States program, which works to foster relationships with ambassadors from states in foreign countries.
has an amazing personality and the ability to relate to people across all lines," she
hasn't been here that long, but boy, she's
really made a difference."Ms. Harrison
hasn't stopped reaching for the stars, though.She
already has set her
next goal: to become the White House press secretary.