Put the “Unity” in Community

9 05 2011

I have been competing in pageants since I was 15 years old.  To some that sounds young, to others, it’s refreshing to hear that I was in High School before starting my journey into pageantry.  In the ten years that I have been involved in pageants I have competed in ten different competitions.  Again, to some that sounds like a lot, and to others, that sounds like very few.  I have learned so much through my involvement, gained so much confidence and life skills that I put to great use everyday, made some of the most dearest friends, and have earned tens of thousands of scholarship dollars for my education ($86, 500 to be exact)!

My first pageant participation happened by chance.  My cousin and I had always dreamt of competing someday because we thought it would be fun.  She called me up to tell me she saw an ad in the newspaper for a local competition called Teen Jackson County and she thought we should enter.  No swimsuit or talent competition; just evening gown, interview, on-stage question and personal style.  It was very similar to a county fair queen pageant.  I had no idea that it lead into a state and then into a national competition, and definitely had NO idea that I would even have a shot at placing, let alone win!

After competiting in this “America’s Southern Teen” competition, I wanted to hop on over to an organization I knew very much about…America’s Junior Miss.  I grew up watching and attending Jackson County Junior Miss and loved what the program stood for.  It’s not a pageant, it is a scholarship program; again, with no swimsuit competition, but there is a talent competition and a scholastic competition as well.  It is one of the largest scholarship organizations in the world for high school teenage girls.  My involvement with this tremendous organization again took me to the national level where I placed 2nd-runner-up in 2005 at Indiana’s Junior Miss.  My Junior Miss experience led me to Miss America and the rest is history!

I love giving back to the organization that truly gave me my wings and taught me how to fly!  I have spent countless hours volunteering for the organization, speaking to groups, emceeing events and even traveling to several states on their behalf. 

Junior Miss has recently gone through some remarkable changes; the biggest of which was being renamed America’s Distinguished Young Woman.  Indiana’s Junior Miss/Distinguished Young Woman has experienced some of the most challenging changes in the history of the program.  The state organization has never had difficulty raising the scholarship funds for the young women, but has recently had difficulty finding volunteers.  I’m always ready and willing to volunteer whenever I can to help out this organization, so when they came calling, I answered. 

I received a phone call the other day asking if I would be available to come to Kokomo, IN to speak on behalf of the organization as it makes a transition from spending the last 47 years in Frankfort, IN.  I was to come and talk about the importance and the need of this organization and how it truly inspires and motivates young women to achieve dreams and goals and provides them with the resources they need to accomplish them.

It was my honor, privelege and pleasure to spend my evening in front of businesses, politicians and highly-esteemed members of Kokomo emphasizing that not only does Distinguished Young Woman offer hundreds of wonderful benefits for high school girls, but the program truly puts the “unity” in community and will continue to do so with the help and support of those who know the importance of leadership programs in our country.  Happy 54th anniversary Distinguished Young Woman!  Here’s to decades more!

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