I cannot believe my year as Miss Indiana Pre-teen is already coming to an end! I think the only thing more shocking than winning my very first pageant, has been how fast this year has gone.
This year has been beyond amazing and truly life changing! I am so grateful that my first pageant was at National American Miss! I could not imagine a more welcoming and encouraging group of people than all the wonderful people that make the National American Miss pageant such a great experience.
A year ago, I showed up to NAM expecting to learn a few things and to hopefully overcome fears of speaking (and yes, singing) in front of others. Boy, did NAM do just that and so much more!
I remember walking out of the hotel the day after the finale with my new crown and sash that I had earned, worked hard for, and so appreciated. I felt as if I could walk up to any stranger and start a conversation.
I felt as if I was part of something greater than a pageant. I was representing girls from around Indiana. It gave me a deeper strength which ultimately bolstered me during a difficult time in my life and helped me turn it into something good for others.
You see, just days after I won my crown, I learned that my cousin had committed suicide. It was then that I decided that I could no longer stand by while people I knew and loved faced struggles so great that they felt the need to end their lives. Encouraged by all that I had seen my sister queens do before me, I decided to start my own charity! I wanted to start a charity that would not only help people, but would prove to other girls that they could make a big difference in their communities, no matter their age.
I learned that my home state of Indiana has the second highest suicide rate in the country. I also learned that kids who choose not to commit suicide are often good readers or had someone encourage them by sharing a positive story of hardship and survival.
I knew how much reading has contributed to my success and happiness in life, so I started a charity called KINDLES FOR KIDS. It is an organization that promotes literacy by distributing Kindles to those kids dealing with difficult times.
By giving Kindles filled with positive and emotionally supportive stories to homeless and domestic violence shelters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and other facilities that help kids, I hope to reduce the suicide rate, not only in my home state of Indiana, but throughout the country, as well.
I have conducted fundraisers, and made numerous presentations.
My work through Kindles for Kids has allowed me to impact a wide range of people.
Not only have I distributed Kindles to places close to my home, like Sojourner Truth House in Gary, Indiana,
but also to places as far away as the Annie Malone Home in St Louis, MO.
I have even had the opportunity to act in a music video that highlighted the devastating effect of domestic violence
and was asked to perform the Taylor Swift song, “Mean” at a 4-H event to increase awareness of the role of bullying in suicide among adolescents.
My involvement in NAM and my time as Miss Indiana Pre-teen has been such a blessing. Not only did I become more heavily involved in community service than I ever was before,
but I have met SO many wonderful new friends!
Of course, Nationals in Anaheim, CA, was the best!
I had so much fun at all the theme practices,
Parties, and of, course, at Disneyland!
And even though I didn’t bring home the big prize, I did place first runner in up in my first ever Casual Wear competition
and second runner up for Most Promising Model. However, the most amazing thing was that I met and got to know girls from nearly every state!
They were all such talented, creative and accomplished girls. We had a such a blast! I appreciated each and everyone’s different personalities!
And from all their different personalities, I learned that there is not just one kind of NAM Queen.
I know everyone says this, but it’s really true. I have created friends through National American Miss that will last me a lifetime! I feel truly blessed and very fortunate to be able to call each and everyone of them my sister queen!
I cannot begin to express my gratitude to everyone at NAM: to the Mayes for starting the National American Miss pageant, to my sister queens for inspiring me, to my parents and family for allowing me to participate in the first place and to God for blessing me so abundantly. There are simply no words sufficient to describe how I feel. I do know, however, I will carry that gratitude with me always in my heart and it will forever be expressed in the person I have become.