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  • Miss Washington Week 2023

    What a joyous week! Truth be told, this has been one of my favorite weeks of the year for a long time now. For those of you who may not know, the Miss Washington competition is a week filled with events, rehearsals, appearances, and then the final two nights consist of the preliminary competition and finals. It is, in all honesty, a long and grueling week. In my opinion, it bears some similarities to sorority rush week, but that is besides the point. Overall, it is one of the most unique and exciting opportunities there is. More About the Week Miss Washington recently found a new home. Since partnering with Experience Olympia, we were blessed to have a new venue for the competition right in the heart of our state capitol. This brought about incredible new service and appearance opportunities, such as an autograph signing at Capitol Mall, photoshoot at the Capitol Building, trip to the Olympia Farmer's Market, and a visit to the Olympia Children's Museum. I firmly believe getting to connect with the community in this way throughout the week not only made it more exciting for everyone involved, but shined a new light on our program. After having competed now for a few years, both locally and statewide, in the teen and the miss competition, I have found it best to set goals for myself whenever entering any competition (I even wrote a bit about this in my last blog post). This year my primary, tangible goal was to focus on having fun and bonding with the other delegates. My other goal, which remains the same in nearly all competitions I enter, is just to grow and do better than I did the last time. I have never felt so at peace while competing as I did this season. And after sharing my passion for this program, finding a cure for childhood cancer, and my heart with the panelists I was honored to have reached my goal, been called into the top 5 and placed 2nd runner up. Relevance While Miss America is a historic organization, having just celebrated it's 102nd birthday, it's no secret that there have been many changes throughout the past few years for the organization. Often, I am asked in interview or on appearances if the program is still relevant. I will be blunt and share that since I have been asked this so frequently, of course I have had to reflect and call the relevancy into question myself. After evaluating this for a few years, I believe I understand how and why it truly is relevant. Having gone through the college and scholarship application processes, and now entering my second year studying for my undergraduate degree, I am finally able to put to use my scholarship dollars. In addition to this, I think we are seeing an increase in recruitment of sponsors for scholarships at several locals, especially in Washington state. This is a big deal because it reiterates, even at a local level, how Miss America is the largest provider of scholarship dollars for women in the United States. However, I believe the benefits to be more than just scholastic. The networking opportunities can come in very handy. You have opportunities to meet and befriend many other ambitious young women, in addition to the directors and volunteer (not to mention all the different people you meet throughout the year of service in the community). Now that I have moved to another state, I am finding that it even serves as a way of getting established in a new place and brings new people into your life. Finally, I think the diversity and talent of current and former titleholders all across the U.S. are perfect depictions of why this program is relevant. They are soldiers, teachers, lawyers, scientists, and so much more. And I think nobody speaks more to this relevance than our new Miss Washington, Vanessa Munson. Miss Washington, Vanessa Munson It is true that many of the girls competing could have been great Miss Washington's (and a few of them probably will be one day). But, God's timing is perfect and the panelists couldn't have picked a better representative for our class than Vanessa. She brought so much joy, peace, and positivity to everyone the whole week of competition. She is a student, soldier in the U.S. Army, and an advocate teaching generations of people to recognize their inherent worth and value. Vanessa, I am so proud of you and cannot wait too continue seeing all you accomplish with your year of service. I wish you nothing but the best! To learn more about our incredible Miss Washington, Vanessa Munson, check out the link below for a great article from a local newspaper in Clark County, Washington. To wrap up, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to compete at state again this past year. And I feel so blessed to have made memories with the amazing women competing as well as the wonderful people that make up the MWSO family. That's all for now, but I am excited to bring y'all along with me as I take the next steps in my journey through the Miss America Organization. So, stay tuned!

  • To The Girl Who Just Signed Up For Her First Pageant...And Lost...

    So, you signed up for a pageant. You practiced your talent, studied current events, did mock interviews, and watched every pageant movie from "Dumplin" to "Miss Congeniality". The competition finally arrives and you are feeling more prepared than ever. You couldn't be more ready, you know that you can fulfill the job requirements, and believe you will win. I mean, why shouldn't you? The competition begins and soon enough it is time to crown the winner. You stand hand in hand with the other contestants, the suspense is built up by the music and nerves of the crowd, and then they announce the winner; and it's not you. I've been the person that gets the crown, but more importantly I have also been the person that does not; both in pageants and in life. And as someone who has been both, there are three things I want you to know. 1) Being a "loser" is not always a bad thing... Just because you lost does not make you a loser. I know it sounds cliché, but you still need to hear it. My first time competing, at 14 years old, I must admit I was fully confident I would win. I had grown up watching pageants my whole life and I thought I was ready. As the story goes, I didn't even win a single award. And I was sad, mad even, for a few months (which, in retrospect, makes me giggle a little bit). But since time has passed, I recognize that I needed to lose. It is true that is builds character. Moreover, it taught me that my value as a person is not dependent on my achievements. And after an initial period of sadness, it build up my persistence and my drive to keep trying. All of which are difficult, but necessary lessons to learn. 2) How you react will influence your future with the organization and the people in it... I cannot preach this enough. I know it's hard, I know it hurts, and I know you are sad. I've been there. And you have every right to feel your emotions, which are justified. But, I urge you to take a step back. Think about the other girls on that stage who have worked just as hard as you and lost too. Think about how every director or judge are all just volunteers trying to do their jobs; and more often than not, have nothing but the best intentions for you. While this is all much easier said than done, it is important. Your reaction onstage, the way you treat the other contestants, and how you respond when things do not go your way are all being watched. Now, I do not mean for this to sound intimidating. It just has to be said because there is some truth to it. And every girl who has competed before will tell you the same thing. As a titleholder there will always be moments during your year of service in which your plans go awry and things change (after all, the motto of our organization is "flexible and gracious"). And as with most things, I believe the older you get and the more practice you have with losing, the easier this will become. 3) You still won... While you may not have won in the way you were hoping, there is always a silver lining. Either you gained a new friend, won a scholarship/another award, improved a skill or at the very least are able to add another experience to the resume. If you look hard enough you can always find the "wins". In all my time competing, and losing, and competing again, I've learned how helpful it can be to set tangible goals. You cannot always guarantee the outcome of a competition like this, where the results are based, oftentimes, on the opinions of a few panelists. But I learned from a wonderful mentor and long time friend, Debbie Nazarino, that you should not rob yourself of the opportunity to walk away feeling confident and at peace, regardless of the outcome. Over the years, and with her help, I have worked to create achievable goals so at the end of the day I can still walk away feeling successful. For example, while competing at Miss Washington my goals were to make at least one new friend, push myself by trying a new style of singing for talent, and talk about my three main points in interview. It is still normal and good to have the goals of making top 10, top 5, or winning; and of course we all do. But I find that walking away from a competition that you "lost" is so much easier when you have achieved your personal, tangible goals that lie within your control. I hope this provides you with a little bit of encouragement, as I know it can be hard to lose, especially after working so hard towards your goal. But, it is true that you gain more from losing than you often do from winning. So, my best advice: try, fail, and try again.

  • First Blog, First Website, and Why...

    Hey Y'all, I'm Austin! I'm a first generation college student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. I'm originally from Tacoma, Washington and love the Pacific Northwest (I swear I'm both a Texan and Washingtonian at heart, however that's possible). I love 50's/60's music, sushi, my dog Mayzie, roses and taking pictures. I'm currently pursuing degrees in Communications and Business Administration on a pre-law track, with the hopes of either entering the field of broadcast journalism or corporate law. Last year I graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory School and was involved in many clubs and activities throughout high school, from basketball to Taekwondo. But my primary "sport", if you will, was the Miss America Organization, and still is to this day. When I say "Miss America" I am sure you think of stereotypical beauty pageants with a swimsuit competition and ignorant contestants who struggle to answer political questions onstage, but this could not be farther from the truth of pageantry. In the past 6 years that I have competed I have gained more communication, advertising, and networking skills than I can tell you. I have started and taken over more than 12 social media accounts to promote myself and the organization, met with multiple local and state-wide politicians, done countless interviews both in a private business-style setting and on television or radio stations, and volunteered over 200 hours. All this to say, that pageantry is not for the faint of heart. Now, yes there is a stage-performance component, but that is miniscule in comparison to the work that titleholders, or even competitors, do during their year of service or while preparing for a competition. The point I want to make is that the Miss America Organization continues to shape me into who I am today and continually opens doors to new opportunites, like this one. While "growing up" through the program and watching competitions even before I was eligible to compete, I looked up to the incredible women involved. They are now doctors, lawyers, journalists, and so much more (our current Miss America is even a nuclear engineer for goodness sakes). Because of this, I decided to take a page out of their playbook by creating my own website and blog. The benefit, as I see it, is three-fold. First, there is the opportunity to promote oneself in an online portfolio/resume, which is especially beneficial for aspiring journalists (side note: check out my YouTube channel if you want to see more interviews, there will be more coming soon). Secondly, it provides organization for various social links, so they can all be listed and accessible in one space (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc). Thirdly, and more importantly, it serves as a platform to promote the organizations and groups I represent. I will share more about all of these later, especially St. Jude's, CMN Hospital & Associated Guilds, and Tri Delta. I am so excited to be starting this website and blog with you all and cannot wait to share about the adventures that lie ahead. If you have any content suggestions, appearance ideas, or just want to say hello please reach out! With love, Austin

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