I cannot believe it; It is finally here. Tomorrow, I leave for Las Vegas to compete in the 2012 Miss America Pageant. I have been working for this since I was 16 years old when I joined the Miss America family as Miss Minnesota's Outstanding Teen 2006. I was a skinny, gawky, awkward, flighty teenager, and I am in awe of how much I have changed in the past five and a half years through my involvement with this program.
When I first started doing pageants, it was all about me. I wanted a singing and acting career, and the Miss Minnesota's Outstanding Teen pageant was an excellent venue to showcase my talent. Plus, who doesn't want to strut their stuff in a gorgeous evening gown? However, as time went on, my involvement with the Miss America Organization became about much more than stardom.
I looked up to the Miss contestants. They were incredible role models for this young, impressionable teenager. They were beautiful, smart, talented, and they were making a difference in their communities. Their influence caused my aspirations to change. The Outstanding Teen program, and consequently the Miss America Organization, opened my eyes to the fact that one person can make an enormous impact on the world around them. It empowered me to take my personal experiences and channel them into advocacy and community service work. It also provided me with tremendous growth and development, helping me to improve my communication, interpersonal, and networking skills. The Miss America Organization has played a significant role in shaping me into the woman I am today.
I have so many people to thank for supporting me throughout this journey: my family, friends, mentors, volunteers, Miss Minnesota board members, and most importantly, God. To everyone who has helped me along the way - you know who you are - THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I am so humbled by the outpouring of support I have felt in the past weeks. You mean the world to me.
Below are photos from two different Miss America send off parties, one in my hometown of Dassel and one in the Twin Cities area:
Miss Minnesota 2011