I can’t believe That it has been two entire years since the night my life changed forever. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday that I was crowned Miss Tennessee 2018, and in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago!
For those of you that have followed me, you know that I had a completely unprecedented year.
There was a change in leadership within the Miss America Organization (that I represented as a state titleholder) and a large shift in structural organization within the organization that didn't sit quite right with many people, myself included.
Many of you know that while I competed in the Lifestyle & Fitness (also known as "Swimsuit") competition at Miss Tennessee 2018, the National Pageant of Miss America would decide that they would not have that portion of competition. So rather than delay the shift or announce how the scoring changes would happen, they chose instead to implement the changes for state titleholders at the national competition.
That was probably the smallest part of controversy I dealt with during my year-- but that's not what I want to reflect on in this post. (We can talk more about that another time!)
Instead, I want to reflect on what my year truly was. I was able to have a year of meaningful service.
I was able to have 365 days of making an impact and inspiring people and intentionally setting out to accomplish the goals I set for myself so that I could look back and know I gave my year of service my everything.
It’s hard to put into words just what a priceless opportunity my year as Miss Tennessee was, and how grateful I am for all the moments that changed my life forever. I am still so honored to have been a part of the incredible sisterhood and to have held two incredibly prestigious state titles with the support of so many wonderful people that made such a phenomenal year possible!
Reflecting on what my year, I looked back at some of the goals I set for myself, and some accomplishments I didn't consciously decide to work towards and attain. But this position is so unique and incredible, it genuinely changes you for the better in more ways than I can put into words. I also wanted to reflect on some of the lessons I learned during this time and how grateful I am for the 365 days of the most amazing year I could have ever asked to experience!
(1) Traditionally, Miss Tennessee visits roughly 50,000 students during her year of service.
I'm proud to say that with a lot of planning and a tremendous amount of help executing those plans with my business Manager Rachel Nall & my Executive Director Allison DeMarcus, I was able to break that record and speak to OVER 70,000 Students!
That's something I will always be proud of and would do all over again in a heartbeat- without question!!
The impact you are able to have on students in this incredibly unique position is hard to put into words. More than that, I will always treasure each moment from my school visits — each one of the thousands of children I met left an impact on my heart that I will take with me forever.
What an awesome responsibility, an incredible privilege, and an even greater honor to get to impact the lives of so many little ones and to teach them about respect — from Memphis all the way to Mountain City!
One of the most powerful things I found, was sharing my story about going through my education through college being undiagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia, an Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyscalculia (think Dyslexia with numbers). One of the things I loved the most was seeing students’ eyes light up when they realized I wasn’t perfect, and they understood that because of sharing my vulnerabilities and shortcomings.
I loved sharing with them how I failed math three years in a row, and had to take summer school. for the longest time it felt so impossible for me to share this “failure” that if felt so ashamed of for so long.
But what I found that was in sharing my vulnerabilities and struggles, and sharing how I overcame them through asking for help… I was able to see how these students realized they didn’t have to be perfect to succeed. I feel as though I’ve left a piece of myself in each of the schools I visited. I would end up leaving every ounce of energy I had with those children at the end of the day and be exhausted by the time school was over! But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I would drive every mile, visit every school and give every hug I could all over again and then some!
(2) I was able to travel over 80,000 miles across our state and to discover new and beautiful parts of Tennessee I never would have otherwise discovered and experienced!
It was incredible to get to see beautiful parts of our state I would never otherwise get to see.
(3) I was able to visit all five Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in Tennessee!
I loved my visits to each and ever hospital. I always brought a crown so that the patients could try them on it on if they wanted to and I loved having "coronation moments" and letting them wear my sash along with the crown!
I brought crowns and scepters and tiaras for patients that wanted them and superhero capes / masks for all my little heroes as well as stuffed animals for patients that needed a cuddly buddy. I loved getting to sign autographs for each and every patient and seeing their eyes light up when they saw I would make sure I had it addressed individually with their name(s)!
(4) I was able to promote my platform of Alzheimer's Awareness as a National Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association, a Captain for state wide teams for the Walk2EndAlz and even having the chance to Visit Retirement Homes across the state.
(5) I was able to make history by being the first woman in Tennessee to hold two prestigious state titles simultaneously. While I chose to accept the position of the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer, I still retained the title of Miss Tennessee America 2018. Even though I chose not to use the name and marks of Miss Tennessee America any longer, that did not retroactively remove me from history or take away my rights to use the name and marks or to take away the title, name and privileges that I rightfully earned and was selected to use and execute.
That said, while I may not agree with the way MAO leadership handled things, I do support each woman that continues to be a part of the organization of her choosing, be that Miss America or Miss Volunteer America,
whatever she deems as what is best for her personally and what will help her reach her goals!
I am so thrilled for Kerri Arnold, Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019 to continue serving and visiting schools during these unprecedented times and so admire her for her poise and grace during this crazy time in our country.
You can follow Kerri's Journey on Instagram and Facebook by clicking these links in the post.
I also am so thrilled for my friend Brianna Mason, Miss Tennessee America 2019, who made history by being the first ever African American Miss Tennessee (America)!! Brianna has always been so kind when we have competed together in the past and I am beyond thrilled for her to continue her year of service- You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook by clicking these links!
(6) I learned a lot about loyalty and trust.
treatment from MAO
You can read more about that in my previous blog post
Treatment from Allison, Jane & Amy and the entire board that I was originally crowned with and have known for years
(7) I learned that I'm stronger than I ever realized.
My year as Miss Tennessee was the most difficult and most rewarding year of my life
I wanted to use every moment of my year to the fullest and to know that I gave every part of myself to a year of my life that means so very much, but more than that, (I hope) means just as much to many more people.
What an honor to serve my great state of Tennessee — I will always be grateful for the chance to make a change for good, because every moment of this journey changed me for the better too.