Early Tuesday morning, my brother called to say that his wife was going into labor! My parents and sister rushed to the hospital in Little Rock through a horrendous thunderstorm and, thankfully, arrived safely. I had an appearance in DeWitt that morning and couldn’t go with them to the hospital. As I walked into the DeWitt High School Cafeteria, I received a text message from my excited sister about the arrival of our new niece! She is so beautiful, and our family is so proud of her!
While in DeWitt, I had the great privilege of speaking to all teachers in the school district! This was the first public speaking appearance where I was given the opportunity to share my platform of mentoring. Public speaking is seriously my favorite part of this job! I told stories about the girls I have mentored through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Organization and the Promise House shelter for pregnant teenagers. Concluding the speech, I challenged the teachers to recognize their unique position to influence youth as mentors! Teachers have direct contact with so many teenagers, some of whom have limited interaction with parents or other adults. Teachers have the opportunity to set a positive example, and I admire their work as mentors!
After speaking to the teachers, I was elated that many of them asked for pictures and autographs. One teacher gave some meaningful encouragement. She whispered, “I really appreciate the work you are doing with pregnant teenagers! I was a teenage mom and know the struggle. Not very many teenage moms have the strength or encouragement to make it as far as I have. That’s why I appreciate your message.”
On Thursday, I met Mrs. June Felix for lunch. Mrs. June is a board member for the Miss Arkansas Organization and long-time volunteer. I LOVED listening to her stories of the pageant, former director Bob Wheeler, and former Miss Arkansas titleholders. I still have a lot to learn, and visiting with Mrs. June was so enlightening!
During the week, the most overwhelming moment occurred as a mother asked for an autographed picture for her little girl. Once she told me the child’s name, I asked her how to spell it. The mom just smiled at me. I asked her again how to spell her daughter’s name. She then revealed, “I don’t spell.” Stunned, I simply wrote my name on a photo and smiled as I handed it to that sweet little girl. It was so humbling for me to realize that an illiterate mother doesn’t know how to spell her own child’s name. In that moment, I realized the purpose of my job. I realized the importance of a role model. I learned that I must take every opportunity to emphasize education, second chances, and reaching one’s personal potential. I hope I never forget this lesson.
I feel energized and ready for the week ahead of me! On Tuesday, I fly to Orlando for the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant. Ashton Campbell will be representing Arkansas and would be most grateful for all of our prayers. She is a beautiful and talented young woman… a true inspiration. While in Orlando, I will also meet the other 52 contestants vying for the title of Miss America! Miss Missouri will be my roommate for the week, and we will be attending banquets, dinners, video shoots, and the pageant with all of the Miss America contestants. On Thursday at 7:30 am, I will be filming a promotional video of “Why I could be the next Miss America.” Stay tuned for the YouTube link!