Pizza Party and Birthday Party!

Tuesday, I was excited to join a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society at Larry’s Pizza in Bryant!  I was a part of the celebrity crew that served pizza and refilled drinks in return for donations to American Cancer Society!  Several of the celebrities included Steve “Wildman” Wilson, Roger Scott from The Buzz Radio Station, Jennifer Stafford-Hines from KSSN Radio, Shane Broadway from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs, and more local business and school leaders.  Wildman and Roger were constantly battling over who raised the most donations, and Wildman would blow a duck call every time he was handed cash.  Wildman was tickled to hear that I was Queen Mallard in 2008, a beloved title in the duck hunting metropolis of Stuttgart.  In fact, he began introducing me as Queen Mallard instead of Miss Arkansas!  What an interesting night!

 We had signs on our back explaining who we were!

We raised $6,319!!  But let me tell you… we worked hard for those donations!  Carrying around large pizzas for three hours was exhausting!  Towards the end of the night, I accidentally dropped a slice of Meat Lovers pizza on a small boy in a high chair.  I was so embarrassed and tried to comb the pepperonis and beef out of his hair.  Thankfully, his parents joked and said, “Even with pepperoni in his hair, he is probably cleaner now than he usually is!”  

I will be participating in  a second celebrity waiter fundraiser for American Cancer Society on September 27 at the Loca Luna and Red Door Restaurants in Little Rock.  Hope to see you there… and I promise to practice on my waitressing skills before then! 

This week ended with my birthday!  My family spent the weekend on Lake Hamilton and it was so nice.  Thank you to all of my friends and family for making it a very special day!  Now… back to studying!  I have my first two tests this week.  Ah!  
 My family took a sunset boat ride on Lake Hamilton!
 My precious niece came to visit me for my birthday!  She even wore her Miss America shirt!

Youth Empowered to Succeed!

I finished my first full week of pharmacy classes!  I am in class anywhere from 3-7 hours a day learning about biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, pharmaceutics, and pharmacy calculations.  I really enjoy it and continue to make new friends every day! 

Starting pharmacy school has given me an even greater appreciation for the education I received at Ouachita Baptist University!!  I am so thankful for the professors who intentionally guided me, challenged me, and effectively communicated the material so I could be ready for success.   As a high school student, I didn’t realize the importance of choosing the right college.  Thankfully, I couldn’t have found a better university!  If you want to pursue a career in the medical field within a Christian environment, Ouachita Baptist University will prepare you with valuable academic skills!

Tuesday, I returned to my old stomping grounds… Stuttgart!  I was invited to speak at the YES (Youth Empowered to Succeed) Banquet for Arkansas and Prairie counties.  Beth Prine has spearheaded this effort for 13 years while fighting for public grants and private donations.  I admire Mrs. Beth for taking so much interest in my generation and persevering when it seems impossible! 

After my favorite meal of poppy seed chicken, I took the podium for my first public speaking appearance since giving up my crown.  I truly have missed it!  It was so easy to share my passion for smart choices that will empower our youth.  Mrs. Beth specifically asked me to speak on my commitment to abstinence until marriage and my promise ring from my dad!  I ended the talk by reminding everyone that once we respect ourselves, others will begin to respect us.  Once we gain respect, we have opened wide the door of influence!  Don’t underestimate the power of influence!
Posing for a picture with the peer leaders! 

Mrs. Beth Prine and me

On Saturday, we headed to the lake to celebrate my birthday a week early!  Several of my friends joined us for lunch and a boat ride.  It was so relaxing and fun!  I am determined to do well in pharmacy school without excluding the fun experiences of life!

In the pageant world, Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen Laura Leigh Turner competed in the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant in Orlando!  After Laura Leigh swept every category on the state level, we thought that she would do well at the national level… but you just never know with national pageants!  You can’t assume anything!  Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear Laura Leigh announced as preliminary talent award winner on Wednesday night after she tap danced in a red jacket and white glove to a Michael Jackson song!  Then, on Saturday night she was the last one called to the top 12, top 10, and top 8.  When the announcement came, Laura Leigh was announced 2nd-Runner-Up to the new Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Rachel Wyatt from South Carolina!  Congratulations!!  

Laura Leigh is in pink, to the right of the winner 

Coincidentally, our current Miss Arkansas Sloane Roberts competed in the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant in 2008, won a preliminary talent award, and placed 2nd-Runner-Up to Miss South Carolina!  Sloane was in Orlando this week for the Miss America Orientation, where she met all of the contestants competing for the crown.  I can’t wait to hear about her week!
Photo from 2008:  Sloane is in purple, to the right of the winner

Make sure you keep up with Laura Leigh's blog as I expect her to post about her MAOT experience in the next week!  :)

My first week of Pharmacy School!

What a good week!

I started orientation for the UAMS College of Pharmacy on Monday.  This consisted of meeting my classmates, learning the rules, registering, and getting ready for the official white coat ceremony!  Classes began on Thursday, and I really enjoyed them!  The chemistry came back to me quickly, although I am going to have to study quite a bit to keep up with the volume of material! 

Riding the bus early Monday morning, I met my first Pharmacy School friend when Miyako recognized me as Miss Arkansas 2011!   Another student mentioned, “I heard that Miss Arkansas would start Pharmacy school this year so I Googled you.”  Haha!  I am excited about getting to know my classmates.  Since there are only 120 students in our program, we have all of our classes together and will get to build a lasting network over the next four years!

Thursday and Friday, I was eager to attend the afternoon sessions of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.  Fellowship Church of Little Rock streamed the conference from Chicago to encourage churches and businesses to lead more effectively.  I scribbled lots of notes while listening to the last speaker, Craig Groeschel, who is the Founder and Head Pastor of in Oklahoma.  He is known for innovative ministry and for creating the YouVersion Bible App.  Ironically, I have been using this App on my cell phone since February to read through the Bible.   Thursday, I completed reading the first half! 

Guess what Craig spoke about… MENTORING!  He challenged us to “bridge the gap” and explained the current issue separating the generations.  He thinks that my generation (Generation Y or Generation Millennia) is perceived negatively.  I researched on Google what words people use to describe us and created a word cloud with the results.  The more frequent words appear larger in the word cloud, which presents a comprehensive overview. 

It is my goal to improve these perceptions!  After traveling the state advocating for my generation during the last year, I will continue to speak up. I believe it is possible to reverse those adverse opinions.  For example, a negative, lazy image sometimes accompanies our avid use of technology and social media.  However, we can use those tools to our advantage as we promote our passions, stay informed, and creatively change the world.    As we develop necessary skills, we need to learn how our cause-driven energy can generate change for a better society.  We are the generation that we have been waiting for.  We just need to believe in ourselves!

But we can’t do it on our own.  We need help from the previous generations!  Here are two Bible verses that emphasize the importance and success of mentoring:

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.  Proverbs 11:14

Now, back to Pharmacy School...   Friday evening was our white coat ceremony, and I was thrilled to have so many friends and family present!  After the ceremony, my sister-in-law, Brooke, who graduated from UAMS Pharmacy School, joined me for a photo that will appear in the Alumni Magazine.  Then, we headed to NYPD Pizza for dinner and Loganberry for a frozen yogurt dessert!  What a great night!

Saturday, I spent the entire day in White Hall with an all-star crew!  Danny-Joe Crofford, native of White Hall and radio personality, recruited Liz Massey to help him co-emcee the Miss White Hall Pageant.  He also contacted Miss Arkansas 2009 Sarah Slocum Collins, KATV reporter Katherina Yancy, and me to judge the pageant!  I really enjoyed all the laughs that we shared throughout the day!
 Liz, Katherina, Danny-Joe, me, and Sarah
 Danny-Joe and Liz as the co-hosts!
 Congrats to all of the contestants!

I learned several things about judging.  First of all, it is very difficult!  After submitting scores, I sometimes was surprised at the outcome… When scores are all tallied, one judge’s scores don’t influence the results as much as you might think!  Although I don’t remember many specific details of what the girls said in interview, I do recall how they made me feel.  For example, there were girls who made me feel very comfortable or eager to hear what they were saying, while others made me feel nervous or less enthusiastic about their vague responses.  After my experience from the “other side of the table,” I would like to emphasize to contestants that it is most important to connect with the judges during interview so they respond warmly when they see you onstage!  It truly was an eye-opening experience! 

Baby Birthday and Body Building!

I don’t think I will ever write another blog about more opposite topics… but welcome to my life!!  On Saturday, I attended my niece’s first birthday party and emceed my first State Championship of Body Building! It was so much fun!

Leading up to Saturday, I spent a lot of time catching up with friends, reading books, getting a haircut, and of course… keeping up with the Olympics!  In fact, I met my three college roommates on Tuesday for a movie and dinner!  Then we headed back to Whitney’s house for an Olympic watch/slumber party!  It was so much fun, and I am so thankful for their friendships!

Saturday was a big day!  My beautiful niece, Addison, celebrated her first birthday with 50 people, including lots of babies!  I believe she is the BEST dressed one-year-old.  For her party, she was wearing an owl monogrammed t-shirt and an adorable colorful tutu!  But her bloomers…!!  They were just precious!  

I really regret not taking more pictures of the party decorations because my sister-in-law went all out with the “owl” theme!  My brother, Mark, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and of course my grandmother brought a birthday cake!  She has not missed making a birthday cake for a family member that I can remember… EVER! When it was time for the cake, we had to take off the tutu and fancy clothes!  She had her own blue owl-shaped “smash cake”.  A little hesitant at first, she didn’t hold back once she tasted the icing!  

 Addison needed a little help blowing out the candles!

Then, it was time to open the presents!  Addison got lots of toys, books, clothes, and outdoor toys!  She also received two tickets to the zoo and a bag of animal crackers… her favorite present of all!  Mom and Dad gave her a shopping cart full of groceries, which excited the one-year-old on the verge of walking.  I gave her a toy cell phone.  I may not be a positive influence on my niece...  Haha!
 Addison's mom, aunts, and cousins... girls rule this family!

After the birthday party, I headed home to change into my black leather dress!  Several weeks ago, Sandie Kight called to ask if I would emcee the Arkansas State Body Building Championships since the scheduled emcee had to cancel.  Sandie co-owns Fine Lines Training with my Miss America personal trainer, Ann Marie Gibbs.  Both ladies have held state titles in Women’s Figure and Physique, and Sandie now helps to expedite the state competitions.  I knew very little about the competition, but they promised I would have an emcee notebook from which to read!  After selecting my leather dress, I felt ready for the challenge!

The state competition was held in Robinson Auditorium with approximately 500 people attending.  More than 90 male and female contestants competed in Bikini, Figure, Physique, and Body Building.  The contestants ranged in age from 16-60, and the 60-year-old man was clearly popular with the crowd!  Onstage in my silver heels during most of the four-hour competition, I had an occasional opportunity to relax backstage.  Contestants doing push-ups created an obstacle course to the water fountain.  It was a really new world to me!

Sandie and me!

Competing in a fitness competition requires an incredible amount of self-discipline!  Most of the athletes prepare for years, with constant attention to workout and diet.  Then, they prepare a 90 second posing routine to music of their choice… and, as you can imagine, “I’m Sexy and I Know It” was a popular song!  Haha!  There are nine judges who score the competitors.  I got tickled when I saw them passing around a pizza box.  I mentioned to Sandie how cruel it was for the judges to eat pizza in front of competitors who have been on strict diets.  Laughing, she confided that the contestants had pizza in their dressing room and were chowing down after their onstage appearances.  Haha … reminds me of Miss America! 

The announcement of the overall body builder winner was intense.  I had observed the judging trends and decided that it would come down to the back-flipping Gareeno or the crowd favorite, Brett.  Finally, I announced the judges’ decision, “The Arkansas State Champion of Body Building… Brett Cotter!”  He had an emotional moment during the announcement and doubled over with a few tears, but I mustered the courage to ask for a photo afterward.  I knew my blog followers would want to see a picture!  All of the division winners will be invited to the National Olympia Competition. 

With the excitement of the weekend behind me, I am now transitioning to school mode!  Orientation for Pharmacy School begins on Monday; classes start Wednesday!  My white coat ceremony will be on Friday, and I have a few special events coming up as well.  I am SO excited about my life right now!  I know God has big plans for this pageant girl/science nerd, and I will trust His guidance!  

Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25: 4-5