MISS AMERICA EMPOWERS ME TO...
The Miss America Organization has empowered me to STRIVE for EXCELLENCE in everything.
17 years old. Wholly unprepared. Laughably confident. Unashamedly determined.
In 2013, when I walked off the stage of my very first local Miss America preliminary as a high school senior with no idea the impact this organization would have on my life, I didn’t know much. But I knew TWO things.
1. Walking away with nothing was not my favorite feeling and I was going to do whatever it took to one day walk away with the responsibility of being a titleholder.
2. “Whatever it took” would not be for the faint of heart.
In the days that followed that first preliminary competition I I sat down and contemplated how I would achieve #1 by doing #2. I reflected on the women that stood on stage with me at the 2013 Miss Marble Valley Preliminary in Huntsville, AL.
The winner went on to become Miss Alabama 2014. Every runner-up won a local title that 2013 season, one even cracking the Top 12 at Miss Alabama that same season. Other women on the stage, like me, did not win a preliminary that season, or the next. Some did eventually, some did not, and eventually gave up on the dream of gracing the Miss Alabama stage.
I remember so vividly the day I sat in front of my blank journal page and went to town writing down the characteristics that ALL these women had in common. Boy, do I wish I still had that journal page today but thankfully I remember some of the items and the overall theme.
I knew after making my list the biggest thing that stood out was the incredible accomplishments of these women.
They were philanthropists, academics, full-time professionals or college students, confidence builders, and excellence seekers.
I was sitting there as high-school-Carlie trying to wrap my brain around HOW in the world I could be all those things!!! It was intimidating.
Sure, I was an above average high school student, but I only did the bare-minimum. I was lucky and got by without much effort. I also volunteered with various community service projects, but nothing that lit my heart on fire.
I knew sitting there staring at my journal that it would take much more than the bare-minimum going forward to be WORTHY of standing next to these spectacularly well-rounded and accomplished women.
I did not want to win by chance or luck.
I did not want to fool the judges into believing I had done more than the reality.
I wanted to be chosen to represent because I was truly qualified and worthy of the honor.
I wanted to measure up.
The Miss America candidates and their high caliber of excellence empowered me to make top notch grades in college and never allow myself to do the academic bare-minimum ever again.
I was empowered to pursue a STEM degree so I could stand out as one of the few women in the applied mathematics world.
I was empowered to make a name for myself in college. I wanted to leave a legacy as a selfless leader to my fellow classmates. I wanted to promote inclusivity. I hoped to encourage personal and professional development.
Through these endeavors I discovered what set my heart on fire.
My social impact initiative (or at the time, my "platform") was born. I was empowered to grow and promote the ideals until it was expanded 3 years later. Now, over a 6-and-a-half-year period, it has grown and grown.
The Miss America Organization empowered me to create a social impact initiative that has become a way of life.
I was empowered to promote this cause and now I have the Miss America Organization to thank for my recently discovered dream of evolving my initiative into a CAREER!
After more than 40 local Miss America preliminaries I FINALLY won my first title last year in March of 2018.
During the time preparing to one day be a titleholder and then actually being chosen for the job, I have been able to learn about personal and professional branding as well.
I have been empowered to cultivate and foster a comprehensive personal brand as Carlie and a titleholder.
I have been empowered to create a YouTube Channel, a blog to share my thoughts and experiences to hopefully help others through similar situations, and a podcast to further spread the tips and methods of Scholarship & Success.
Honestly, I can go on and on about dozens of other things that either the program as a whole or a specific candidate has inspired and empowered me to add to my life or change.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I know that women across the country can be equally as empowered by this program as I have been.
Seriously ladies. If you're between the ages of 13-25 check out the Miss America 2.0 website's list of states to find out how to get involved in your state's Outstanding Teen or Miss Program.
Even if this sounds like the CRAZIEST idea you've ever considered, take a chance. Compete in ONE local Miss America Preliminary and then choose whether it's for you. Don't lean on past stereotypes. Use your own judgement to decide for yourself whether you are going to allow the candidates and the Organization to inspire and empower you to achieve EXCELLENCE.
GO FIND YOUR EXCELLENCE.