Hayden Wiggs says she is passionate about writing, but, more importantly, she is passionate about telling stories.
“I know that I have a knack for words,” she says. “It’s something that has always come easy to me, and I am determined to use that talent to do something good, to help or inspire someone with my words.”
The 2018 Buford High School graduate recently became the first journalism student at the University of Mississippi to earn a master’s degree in just five years — one year after she graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in political journalism with minors in history, creative writing and theater arts.
While attending Ole Miss, Hayden served as vice president of her sorority, Alpha Phi; social media coordinator for the Ole Miss Cardinal Club; copy editor for the Ole Miss Yearbook; and news director for WUMS-92.1 FM Rebel Radio, all while remaining active in numerous organizations and honor societies.
Hayden’s work has been published in more than 15 local and regional publications in and around Oxford, where she currently resides, including “The Oxford Eagle,” “The Panolian,” “Oxford Magazine,” “The Daily Mississippian,” “Mississippi Free Press” and “Oxford Invitational.” She currently works as a freelance journalist for the “Mississippi Free Press.” She recently authored a piece published in the “Mississippi Free Press” chronicling a grassroots social justice movement in Oxford.
“Last summer, a fellow student of mine, Jimmie ‘Jay’ Lee, went missing and was presumed murdered,” Hayden explains. “Jay Lee’s friends banded together and created the ‘Justice for Jay Lee Movement,’ which seeks to not only provide justice for Jay Lee’s case but resources on how to support the Southern LGBTQ+ community at a time when it is most threatened.”
Hayden says the piece is significant to her as it directly relates to her bachelor’s degree in social justice and political reporting.
“Bringing stories from marginalized and underrepresented communities to life is something that is deeply important to me,” Hayden says.
Hayden attended Buford City Schools from kindergarten through fifth grade and ninth through 12th grade. She attended DaVinci Academy at South Hall Middle School for grades sixth through eighth.
During her time at Buford High School, Hayden was an honor roll student. She was involved in the arts as a member of Thespian Troupe 2971. She was also a member of Beta Club and Key Club, a member of the junior varsity cheerleading squad for both football and basketball and a member of the varsity rifle team.
Hayden says the English classes she took in high school had significant impacts on her as a writer and encouraged her future endeavors.
“My English classes, especially those with Mrs. Bethany Phillips and Mr. Tim Harris, were influential in shaping me into the writer I am today,” she says. “I’m very grateful for them and their tutelage.”
Phillips’ freshman English course was Hayden’s favorite class at Buford.
“Mrs. Phillips is an amazing teacher who genuinely cares about her students and the material she is teaching,” Hayden says. “She encouraged me as a young writer, something that means a lot even to this day.”
Hayden says her fondest memory from high school is graduation.
“I was very excited for the road ahead,” she says, “and knew that I could pursue whatever path I wanted thanks to the education I received from BHS.”
Hayden is a past intern for “Buford Weekly Illustrated.”
“When I was 14 years old, I walked into the offices of the then-‘Buford Weekly Illustrated’ and said, ‘I want to be a writer for you,’” Hayden recalls. “They thankfully did not dismiss me, and instead gave me an assignment to write about an upcoming play at the high school.”
Hayden served as the high school liaison for “Buford Weekly Illustrated,” which became the “North Gwinnett Voice” in 2016. Hayden continued with the NGV as an intern, experiencing what she calls her “first real taste of professional journalism.
“I learned so much from (the staff), which allowed me to go on and confidently pursue my college degree,” Hayden says. “I am so thankful for them!”
Hayden will begin a marketing internship this month at DressUp Corporation before moving to Orlando, Florida, in August to participate in the Disney College Program, a highly selective internship program that offers college students and recent college graduates an opportunity to gain experience working full time at the Walt Disney World Resort.
“I am a big fan of Disney and the parks hold a special place in my heart,” Hayden says. “I am looking forward to learning more about marketing and sales through classes the program offers!”
Hayden is the daughter of Ginnie and Andy Wiggs of Flowery Branch. She has one sibling, Isabelle Wiggs, a 2021 Buford graduate who now attends Auburn University.