I can't believe that it has been a whole year already. It's been the longest year and yet a flash. Today was Orientation Workshop for the Miss New York contestants. Been waiting for this one for a while!
We started with the usual - pageant details, schedules, wardrobe requirements, yada yada - and then dove into the fun information: First, that we are bringing back the Mr. New York Pageant!! The ladies will be recruiting fine young gents to represent them in our favorite annual fundraiser!! Swim trunks, baritone serenades, tuxedos...it'll all be there. Then came a curveball. Ken Nelson, the Scholarship Director, called me to the front for what seemed to be the sole purpose of making me blush as he explained his pride in what I had accomplished this year. Stating that there were no material objects the Board of Directors could offer that I needed (I would argue that a rent check would do, but I see his point,) the words that followed brought my hands shooting up to cover my gaping mouth: the Miss New York Organization has created a anti-bullying scholarship in my name. Cue the water works. I am overwhelmed, humbled, and borderline in shock over this. Every year I will return to select a student from New York who has made an exceptional difference in the field of anti-bullying, able to honor them onstage and award them a scholarship to pursue their education. What can I even say? I've wanted nothing more than to make a difference this year in the lives of others. To think that impact will be an annual thing trumps all the material wealth I could have imagined. Toss this one up on the list of reasons why I am so wildly indebted to this organization.
Now came an exciting announcement on my end. This year, Project Empower has been the vehicle for my passion and impact. It earned me a Quality of Life nomination, got me hands-on with thousands of students, gave me leadership experience as a development strategist and organization leader, and helped me walk the walk when it came to impacting youth. Today I announced that Project Empower has set up a partnership opportunity for the next Miss New York. Pending her interest, we will be offering her the chance to become a leading figure and utilize the platform we have built in order to spread her message into schools state-wide. Best of all, this partnership is not just for Miss New York. I am inviting all the local titleholders from across the state to become regional advocates. They are welcome to take our programs and use our team to reach schools in their area. My hope is to help women of this organization forever have a way to advocate and lead, as these are the two elements of this role that I find most important.
After the ladies strutted their stuff for a swimsuit work session (brave, right?) I got some one-on-one time with them. Sorry friends, but this girl talk was private! The ladies were incredibly quiet and left me worried (my worst fear is leaving them uninspired or dis-impassioned.) But as they split off for talent run-through time I had nearly every contestant pull me aside for a private conversation. As if I couldn't be more touched by this day, I found myself having back-to-back conversations in stairwell corners about everything from fears to fiery passions, platform ideas to organizational overhauls, and all the many dreams and emotions in between that these ladies are bringing to their fight for this job. New York, we are lucky. After every conversation I was thinking, "There she is!" Each so wildly different in what they want to bring to this title! That is what Miss New York is about; not daddy's credit card and expensive dresses, but the opportunity to share the depths of ones impact through a one year job. Thank you to all of this year's titleholders who are seeking this for what you can offer the title, rather than what the title can offer you.
Just like last year, I have basically no pictures from the day. There was far too much to focus on. The clock is ticking now. Excuse me while I go pretend that this is never going to end.