As it nears closer, it feels bittersweet to say that I will be competing for my fifth and final Miss America state competition in just a few days.
I competed for my first Miss America local on a whim when I was just 18 years old. At the time, I knew very little about the organization, but had just watched Miss America for one of the first times and was so inspired by the winner that year, Mallory Hagan, that I found information and signed up for my first local that night.
As a student at an arts high school getting ready to graduate, I was excited by the opportunity to continue singing and performing, but I soon found out that the Miss America Organization was about a lot more than what we see on television.
Since I leave for Miss New York on Wednesday(!!!), I wanted to take some time to reflect on my time in the Miss America Organization and all that I've gained from my six years as a titleholder and volunteer.
Miss America has helped me find my voice and given me a platform to use it. At 18, there were so many causes I cared about and wanted to get involved in, but I didn't know how to get started or if my voice would be wanted. Miss America's service component pushed me to dive in and become a leader in my community through my social impact initiative, The Power of Your Vote. It has evolved a bit over the years, but it focuses on empowering people - especially young people - to express themselves through the power of their vote, and has allowed me to get involved with so many wonderful organizations like the League of Women Voters and HeadCount.
Miss America has given me thousands in scholarship dollars that I have used to cover the costs of textbooks, technology needs and other important tools for my education. I am forever thankful to have graduated from college debt free in part because of the scholarship money I earned from competing in this organization.
Miss America helped me find "my people." I had never been much of a "girl's girl" in high school, but through the Miss America Organization I have met women all over the state and country who have become some of my closest friends and mentors.
Miss America has taught me about setting and working toward goals, how to recover gracefully when you don't quite meet them, and to enjoy the journey along the way. And Miss America has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams, and to reach higher than I ever thought possible.
It feels weird to be on the other side of it now, six years later at 24, having graduated college, started my career and gone through so many other changes. But I am thankful I've had Miss America, and my Miss America sisters, as pillars to give me stability and guide me through all of those changes. Here's to one more time!
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!