Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Winfield STAND School Meeting

I am always asked "What is your favorite school that you have been to?"  Honestly, I had a few different answers, but Winfield High School visit has been my favorite HIGH SCHOOL so far:)  There was a new club starting up, and the two co-founders found me on the internet and called Rose, my appearance coordinator, and booked me for their second meeting.

Brittany and Sam, the club representatives, met me in the school office that afternoon.  Because of their level of professionalism, I assumed they were seniors in high school, but after having the opportunity to go to school lunch....yes, school lunch....with them, I realized they were freshman.  I was blown away!

Eating school lunch was my favorite!  Winfield was having Easter Dinner that day at lunch so we all had turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, apple pie, chocolate milk and the SCHOOL ROLLS:)  Let's just say that the school rolls were as SCRUMPTIOUS as I had remembered!

After meeting and greeting with a few of the other students that attended Winfield High School, we left to conduct the meeting.  On our way to the library, both Brittany and Sam said "No one believed us that you were coming.  So I am so glad that you came to lunch with us to show the whole school that we weren't lying and that we were famous enough to be your friend!"  That made my day and I have continued to stay in touch with both of them (pictured below).

Lincoln High School GEAR UP

WV GEAR UP is a federally funded, six-year program aimed at Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. GEAR UP provides rigorous educational services to help students plan, apply and pay for education and training beyond high school.  I had the wonderful opportunity to go into Lincoln High School in the Clarksburg area to talk to the students and parents partaking in the GEAR UP Challenge.   

Being that this was not a "normal" school appearance with my platform speech ready, I talked about the importance of going on to further your education or obtain an apprenticeship or certificate that will qualify you for more jobs in your field.  Also I talked about my work with election campaigns and how that lead me to my job with the White House and also the McCain campaign.  Throughout those experiences and life lessons, much was learned: Goal Setting, Time Management, Making Wise Choices, Knowing Who You Are, and most importantly, What You Want to be Remembered For.  

I relived my experience in high school serving as President for two large clubs, filling out the FAFSA, applying for college, applying for various scholarships, choosing my place of study, and picking a major.  I got a few laughs about the FAFSA form and my parents wanting to kill me just because I was a senior and there was so much that went into that year.  But again, to sum up the presentation, "Life isn't easy....but it's great!"  

I am very satisfied with where I am in life right now, but I know I am here because of the hard work that was bestowed upon me, the support system I had at home and at school, and the push to set and achieve goals.  

Morgantown Boys & Girls Club

Monday, I went to the Morgantown Mountaineer Boys & Girls Club to talk to the kids about overcoming adversity.  This was my first Boys & Girls Club appearance of the year and I was so excited to see the kids and hear about what they did that day in school.  

When I came in, the students were working on Power Hour  (Power Hour is one hour Monday-Thursday where all members work on homework, study, or get tutored) so I just sat quietly and waited until everyone had finished their homework.  There was a little girl that sat down by me on the couch and had a Barbie in her hand.  I, jokingly, asked if her Barbie's name was Fred and she looked at me and said "Uhm, no, her name is Barbie!"  I laughed just because of the seriousness, but then realized that kids have just as much ability to change their attitude and feelings as adults do:)

Power Hour was soon over so I was able to start my presentation.  All of the kids gathered in the "couch room" and listened to the presentation while also asking questions.  Early in the presentation I asked everyone what they thought a BAD CHOICE might be?  One little girl responded, "Drugs."  I thought "Yes, they are getting it quick."  Next student responded, "Drinking."  Strike two. got interesting.  A little boy raised his hand and she said "Getting drunk on green tea!"  We all laughed, but it wasn't as good as the ones to follow.  The girl with the barbie said "Letting a six year old drive a car."  I just had to laugh because I had YET to get that answer....but in actuality it was a great BAD CHOICE.  And then the one to top it off was this little eight year old boy who started in on a whole story. "How about carrying a knife in your pocket to school, setting off the metal detectors, then running away when you got caught.  Pulling the fire and water alarms and going to the local convenient store and stealing every Little Debbie cake they had there."  The room erupted, as did I!  

I learned then a very valuable lesson.  When asking a question, be prepared for ANY answer! After laughing we all diverted and commented to the eight year old that he was in fact VERY RIGHT, those all would be bad choices and then went on to the rest of the presentation which went very well.

As I have mentioned before, I ALWAYS do a question and answer session after each school presentation.  You get the usual questions of, "Where do you live," "How old are you," "Do you have any pets,", etc. but today there was a little boy that asked, "If there was a Mr. WV?"  I jokingly said, "My boyfriend thinks he is Mr. WV, but I am not so sure about him. So, would you like to be my boyfriend for the day and reign as Mr. WV?"  He said, "Uhm, no.  That would be quite alright.  I don't like playing with girls."  AGAIN, the room erupted and I acted like I was crying.  I said "You just threw me under the bus!"  He replied, "Yes, I wish I could do that to my sister" and pointed to where she was.  

After everything was asked and answered, I passed out my autograph cards to each student in the room.  Mind you, that day I choose to wear my hair naturally curly and it has been cut since my picture was taken back earlier in my year.  Once everyone had received one, the kids started looking at me funny and then back at the picture.  In various different forms, they all said "This isn't you.  You don't even look like this girl.  You came in here and lied to us saying you were Miss WV!"  I just had to laugh because they were right...I really didn't look like her, but after being ask to smile while the picture was neck to my face, they all agreed it was me:)

This was one of the most fun appearances yet and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of the Mountaineer Boys & Girls Club.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miss Marion County Preliminary

(All titleholders)

(Emily Shaffer, Miss Appalacia, provided us entertainment during the pageant.  She did a WONDERFUL job!)

This Saturday was spent at the LAST preliminary pageant for the Miss WV Scholarship Organization.  The Miss Marion County preliminary pageant gave away three titles and those titles were awarded to one veteran and two brand new girls. 

I explained to each of the contestants that I didn’t get to where I am today by winning each preliminary I participated in.  I didn’t give up though and knew the end goal and what I wanted to gain from my experience in this organization.  Each girl that competed this year holds a special place in my heart and I look forward to seeing each and every one of them compete again next year.

(Teen Titleholders)

MHS Charity Talent Show

Morgantown High School hosted their second Annual Mohawk Idol.  This is a fundraiser put on by the MHS Student Council and benefits the Mountaineer Spay and Neuter Assistance Program as well as WVU Children’s Hospital.  I was asked to judge and couldn’t wait for the talent to start competing.

In the Elementary/Middle School division there were 10 contestants – ages first grade through seventh grade.  In the High School division there were 12 contestants.  Some played the piano, some the guitar, some sang solo, some sang with friends and there was even a JUGGLER!  

Actually, this was one of the most, if not the most, entertaining and fun appearance I was asked to participate in.  I was super stoked to be a part and thought the talent from both age groups was phenomenal!

In the Elementary/Middle Age division there was a little first grade boy that sang and played the guitar.  Even though was the youngest participant, he WON!   He is pictured below and was adorable.

When asked what he was going to do with his prize money of $100.00, he shrugged and said, “Probably put it in my wallet!  I have $63 dollars already in there and I want to save it.”  I was in love then and asked him to spare a few dollars and take me out for ice cream afterwards.  He said he would if his sister could come along.  I about snatched him up and took him home then!

In the High School division the winner of $100.00 as well was a girl who sang “Part of the World” by the Little Mermaid.  I was a little skeptical when it started, just for the mere fact that this girl was a senior in high school singing a child’s song, but she was fantastic!  She really sold it and that is what set her apart from the others.  

Titleholder Gabriel Ash, Miss Doddridge County, was able to attend with me and we had a great time catching up!

Chestnut Mountain Ranch

Chestnut Mountain Ranch is a residential school program for children. Their admissions are based on an extensive intake process and the appropriateness of the child for the program. 
West Virginia is like many areas of the country that needs a program that brings hope and healing to children, but West Virginia statistics for children at risk are higher than most states. Detailed statistics from the Child Welfare League of America and the Anne E. Casey Foundation provide proof for the need.

Chestnut Mountain Ranch is devoted to reaching these children to bring hope and healing. The program is based on a the time proven program of Eagle Ranch, and the success rate for these children developing into strong productive adults with healthy families of their own is great. The vision for Chestnut Mountain Ranch started years ago when Stephen Finn was a police officer in metro-Atlanta. Steve and his wife, Dawn, felt that one day they would work with at-risk youth on a full time basis. After 11+ years in law enforcement, Steve felt that God was calling him to serve full-time in ministry.

Through a series of events Steve and Dawn found out about Eagle Ranch, a boy's and girls home located in Georgia, and they soon found themselves leaving behind what was familiar and becoming full-time houseparents to seven troubled teens. During their time at Eagle Ranch, their vision for starting a children's home that would bring hope and healing to children in crisis began to grow. Through Eagle Ranch's guidance, they became equipped to take on this great task.

A thorough study was conducted of various states, and areas of need. During their time of research they found themselves in Steve's home state of West Virginia. They quickly found that the need was great for a children's home like Eagle Ranch.  Chestnut Mountain Ranch got its name from Eagle Ranch's hometown of Chestnut Mountain, Georgia. 

This week there was a college group in representing Habitat for Humanity that worked on or around the ranch this entire week.  They were a group of 15 young adults that were lead by the gentleman pictured below.  I had a wonderful time visiting with them and also catching up with Steve Flinn and his family around their dinner table.  

Week of After Schools~

Many Miss WV titleholders got to school or live in Morgantown.  Two titleholders, Maggie Power & Megan Otte were able to join me at the Mountainview Middle School appearance.  The boy to the FAR RIGHT asked me what he looked like in the picture since he was cracking his back.  We all got such a laugh out of it that he made me put it on the blog.

Due to the MANY snow storms that have occurred here in WV this winter season, my school tour has reached out to every school program imaginable to fulfill the required amount of schools....and keep busy.  So this week in Morgantown I visited seven after school programs.  I started out my week at Brookhaven Elementary and finished up at Suncrest Primary School.  In between, appearance locations consisted of Mountainview Middle, North Elementary, Skyview Elementary, and Cheat Lake Elementary.  Because of these appearances being with the various after school programs, each day offered something different; which I loved!

(Suncrest Primary School - LOVED each and every one of these students.  The boy raising his hands was a blast!)

WV Bow Hunters Association Dinner

The WV Bow Hunters Association Awards Banquet is an annual appearance for the Miss Kanawha Valley Scholarship Organizations titleholders.  Well, since I was a FORMER titleholder and Miss WV was an attendee to the event last year, I was able again to help out with the festivities.  

(He wanted to make sure that we got his leg raise in the picture, lololol  Great guys.)

Altogether we had four girls that were to help out with the various games and raise funds for the association.  The girls in attendance were:  Misty McMinn, Mrs. WV International, Emily Shaffer, Miss Appalachia, Jessica Keefer, Miss Coal Valley, and myself.

The hunters would come in the door and encouraged to purchase a mug of tickets off of the beautiful titleholders.  From there, they would tear off the tickets and place their numbers into the various different buckets that would give them the opportunity to win that certain prize.  These prizes could run from a flashlight to a target deer or 18-person tent.  

(This little boy was DARLING!  I had to take a picture of him...he was kinda afraid of me though.)

Each titleholder was in charge of one game and these games were run somewhat the same way as the bucket/ticketed items.  My game offered the chance to win a Yorkiepoo puppy or a gun.  The interested hunter would pay $10 for a chance to win either item and would get either 2, 4, or 6 tickets, qualifying them for that many chances at a win.   

Honestly, I fell in love with the dog and paid more attention to it than I did the game and the hunters.  Good thing I had someone else helping me take the money and hand out the number of tickets drawn!  After it was all said and done, the association made $1500 on my dog game and much more on the other games offered at the dinner.  

The best way to describe this appearance was to consider yourself a “glorified hunting Vania White.”  Each of the titleholders had a great time helping raise funds for the association as well as being together. 

(Yes, this is called....only bringing with you what you need for that day or the next day.  I did go to the gas station for snacks with the girls in this 'get-up.'  I had those shoes from my outfit that I arrived in.  The sweat outfit was something I brought for hanging out, but didn't bring shoes.  And lastly, that is my winter coat.  I am not at all going to be on the 'fashion emergency' section of the next Star News!)

Geneva Kent & Culloden Elementary Schools

Much like Enslow Middle School, GenevaKent and Culloden Elementary Schools were wonderful schools to attend and present.  At Geneva Kent I did my normal Child Abuse & Neglect presentation, but at Culloden I talked to the fourth and fifth grades about overcoming adversity.  I loved talking to the older grades because the question and answer portion is always much more interesting.  You just never know what they are going to ask and how serious of a question it could be.

**Queen at Outback Steakhouse**

Throughout my year, I have been able to meet the most wonderful people that, honestly, I would have never crossed paths with without the title of Miss West Virginia.  After finishing up a day in Cabell County Schools, I was privileged to eat dinner with a wonderful family at Outback Steakhouse.  

We all had a blast, but Heidi (five year old little girl) was ecstatic to eat dinner with Miss West Virginia, so I surprised her by brining my crown, sash, and some clip on earrings that I found in the crown box.  She came dressed head to toe in Hello Kitty and even brought her own crown that she wears around the house.  Her brother seemed less than amused and was more interested in the cheese fries, but we didn’t care.  We had fun and she wore my crown and earrings during the whole dinner!

I look forward to seeing them again, but the next time, I think I will be getting my fashion advice from Little Miss Heidi:)

Enslow Middle School

Enslow Middle School was a BLAST to present to!  I did three presentations – one to all three grades – and each grade was vastly different with their responses to the presentation as well as questions during the interview portion.

These students were quality level students and were so easy to present to and interact with.  They were all ecstatic to get an autograph picture and I was excited to give each of them one as well! 

Soon after I finished my presentations, I headed down to Huntington’s Pullman Square and did a little damage at Runway Couture!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monarch Misses - LouMasi & Mom

In 2006, the Monarch Miss Mentoring program was added to the Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization. With some help from a former Miss West Virginia’s Outstanding Teen and now current competitor for Miss West Virginia, Jessica Schuler, and other Miss America State Organizations, we in WV were finally a part of the mentoring opportunities associated with Miss America.

(With Danielle at the Greenbrier 4th of July Parade)

This past year I was assigned to two Monarch Misses, Evie Thorn and Danielle Jolliffe. Danielle and I have been able to stay in touch because of her mom – the manager of the State Fair of West Virginia – but Evie and I haven’t gotten to get together this year. I hope if there is a "next time" I get to visit Petersburg, I will be able to connect with her. She is a great girl…just growing up and dealing with the day to day busy lifestyle.

(With LouMasi and Baby Talia)
I have had the blessing this year to have adopted LouMasi Lott as my Monarch Miss.  She and her mom found me and have been such a support. Her mom recently wrote me a facebook message about Masi singing EVERY WORD of my Precious Lord, Miss America talent song, to her doll “Baby Talia.” I guess you never realize how you affect little girls or how much they remember until you are hit in the face with the reality that it is not just a MYTH….they really do look up to you!
After the bridal show in Parkersburg, I had a few hours to spend with both her and her mom at Applebee’s and I can’t wait till the next time we can get together. They both are WONDERFUL people and women I look forward to spending a lifetime getting to know!

Elizabeth Michael's Bridal Show

Just a few days before the bridal show was to take place, I was asked to be a model for two gowns that were needing to be showcased. I agreed since Jane/Elizabeth Michael’s has done so much for me!

Elizabeth Michaels is located in Vienna, WV and is a ONE-STOP-SHOP for all pageantry/prom/bridal needs as well as just spicing up your wardrobe with a few statement pieces. Many of you readers hear me refer to Elizabeth Michael’s as "Jane’s" and that is because it is owned and operated by Jane Engleke of Mineral Wells. She outfitted me for Miss West Virginia Fairs & Festivals in 2007 when I won, Miss West Virginia 2008 and Miss West Virginia 2009.  Not to mention, my FABULOUS wardrobe at Miss America!
She has been a great friend of mine, pageant helper, and fashion police. Not to mention she is a WONDERFUL sponsor to many of the WV Preliminaries and the Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization. 

KVSO Children's Pageant

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I wore both the KVSO preliminary titles when competing for Miss West Virginia. Now it came time for a fundraiser and I was honored to serve as the emcee for the area children’s pageant.

There were close to 30 participants, ages from baby to Pre-Teen Miss. Each contestant was awarded a princess prize box along with a crown, sash and gift bag to the winners of each age group and category.

It was a fun day and a great time to visit with the newly crowned Miss Kanawha Valley Scholarship titleholders who also helped out with the fundraiser as well.

IHOP National Pancake Day

Since beginning its National Pancake Day celebration in 2006, IHOP has raised more than $3.25 million to support charities in the communities in which it operates. While IHOP's National Pancake Day typically takes place on Shrove Tuesday, this year the company will host its free pancake event on Tuesday, February 23, extending the fundraising window by one week to maximize donations for Children's Miracle Network. With your help, we hope to raise $5 million in five years for Children's Miracle Network and other local charities through your donations in 2010!

(New friend and a new bride-to-be)

Known also as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, National Pancake Day dates back several centuries to when the English prepped for fasting during Lent. Strict rules prohibited the eating of all dairy products during Lent, so pancakes were made to use up the supply of eggs, milk, butter and other dairy products...hence the name Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.

I was privileged to host at the IHOP in Beckley, WV, right off of Harper Road. There I spent a few hours with the guests that came in to support the day and it cause. I even reconnected with someone that I worked with a few years back when on the McCain campaign (see picture above). Other Miss America and "Miss State" contestants also partook in the day by offering up a few hours of their time to flip flapjacks or visit with the guests of IHOP. A few Miss West Virginia contestants had pictures posted of their experience and I stole those to show with you. You will see below.
When sitting down with the guests, I stuck up a conversation about almost anything. An older woman and her "daughter-in-law to be" were eating their breakfast meal and she told me she was a pastor of a church in Beckley.  We started talking about our faith and our church experiences. Always when you need a pick-me-up, God is there. Everyone and everything else fades, but He remains ever present!

(Megan Otte - Miss Kanawha Valley)

(Jessica Schuler - Miss Metro Valley]