Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Fall, Y'all!

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves."
-William Shakespeare

           Hello, friends!  Long time, no talk.  After wrapping up midterms week, I’m excited to get you all up to date.  At the conclusion of my summer, it was time to head back to school at High Point University!  If you know me, you know that packing up my closet is a daunting task…especially keeping in mind the size of dorm closets ;)  Not long after I was settled in my apartment and had completed a week of classes, I found myself on a plane headed home-sweet-home.  It just so happened that our lovely Miss New Jersey’s send-off celebration was the day before I was scheduled to depart for the National Sweetheart pageant.  I made the trip back to New Jersey in time to emcee one of our Shore family Outstanding Teen pageants, and attend Cara’s send-off!  It was so comforting and reassuring to be surrounded by my pageant family before I left for Sweetheart. 
            I arrived in New Jersey bright and early (with latte in hand), and headed straight to Cape May Courthouse for the Miss Seashore Line, Coastal Shores, and Cape Shores Outstanding Teen pageant.  Carol, my AMAZING director, welcomed me with a hug, a kiss, and a mock interview.  In true Carol form, she took the latte out of my hands and led me to the interview room.  I wouldn’t have it any other way :) I had a blast catching up with my sister queens, Olivia and Cierra, and crowned my new little sister, Miss Seashore Line’s Outstanding Teen, Gabrielle Ammirato! 
 The Seashore Line family, finally complete! Nia is my Little Princess, Emily is my Pre-Teen Princess, and of course, Gabrielle is my Outstanding Teen!  Love these cuties :)
Miss Seashore Line's Outstanding teen, Gabrielle!!
 Nia and I like taking silly pictures...:)
My sister queens! Cierra is Miss Coastal Shores and Olivia is Miss Cape Shores :)

            To our Miss New Jersey, Cara- I could not be more proud to call you a friend!  You represented our great state so well and did an awesome job of welcoming the Miss America pageant back to Atlantic City.  I’m sure you showed everyone what a true Jersey girl is made of.  I can’t wait to give you a congratulations hug when I see you next. :)
 I am so blessed to have such incredible sisters :)
Re-enacting our final two moment!  We have such a beautiful Miss New Jersey :)

            The morning after Cara’s send-off, I was off to Hoopeston, Illinois, for the National Sweetheart pageant!  For anyone who may be unaware, the National Sweetheart pageant is a competition in which 1st runners-up from every MAO state pageant are invited to compete in a national pageant.  I attended the Sweetheart pageant back in the day when I was Miss New Jersey’s Outstanding Teen.  My local “big sister,” Katie Hope was representing New Jersey.  Never in a million years did I think I might someday be in her shoes.  I had always looked up to the “Miss” contestants and it still baffles me that I have the honor to compete with some of those girls who were my role models. 
            The National Sweetheart pageant was one of my most amazing pageant experiences to this day.  I met inspirational and extraordinary contestants, as well as generous and energetic volunteers.  I cannot thank the people of the Hoopeston community enough for their selflessness.  Many welcomed us into their homes, chauffeured us to our appearances, fed us, and most importantly, shared their time.  I heard the most amazing stories, and met some truly exceptional people.  The Sweetheart pageant is a learning experience, not only to prepare for competition, but a way for the contestants to learn more about different regions of our country, and each other.  The women I met in Hoopeston represent so many different versions of a “pageant girl.”  I am honored to have shared the stage with my sweetheart sisters, and look forward to supporting them all in their future endeavors (pageantry or not!). 
Prepare for picture overload...
 My Mom and I (mostly my mom:), made this costume!  We had so much fun brain-storming ways to represent New Jersey, and even more fun finding a way to make our own roulette wheel!  This one's for you, Jersey :)

 Yes, those are hard hats.  We got to tour a bean factory!
 The beautiful Miss Alabama Sweetheart, Hayley!  A sweetheart sister and a sorority sister!
 As photographer Joe Whiteko would say, "FRIENDS FOREVER!"
 This is Sharon, the best chaperone a girl could ask for.  Miss you, Shar-bear!
 Larry, a Miss New Jersey judge, came all the way from Hawaii to watch the sweetheart pageant.  You may better know him as the judge who won the pineapple cutting contest on the Miss NJ stage... Sorry Larry, you'll never live that one down ;)
 These three young ladies came all the way out to illinois to support me!!  Thank you Sam, Gabrielle, and Samantha for cheering me on :)
Anna, Hal, and Kaitlin are some of my favorite role models...Anna and Kaitlin for their poise and passion, Hal for his fabulous taste in fashion ;)
 Mary, Miss Missouri Sweetheart and I braved the cornfields for a photo-op...I loved Mary when I watched her take the 1st runner-up title on the Miss Missouri webcast.  She's the sweetest :)
 My name was called first into the top fifteen.  You could say I was a little excited :) 
 Carol-I know you hate having your picture taken...but you've got to admit, this one's a keeper :)
 The Sheppards welcomed me into their home and pampered me, along with my three roommates, all week!  I could never thank them enough for their impact on my Sweetheart experience!!
My fan club at the parade! Aren't they a good-looking bunch? ;)
Here is the fan club again after the final night of competition (Aunt Chell, my Mom, Mrs. Ammirato, Gabrielle, Samantha, Carol, Sam, Jason, Mrs. Dowling, Hal, Kaitlin, and Anna)!  These people mean the world to me.  Thank you, thank you thank you-from the bottom of my heart.
My awesome cousin, Jason, comes to support me in all of my performances!  He and Aunt Chell are some of my biggest fans and I couldn't be more grateful for them :)
 My bunk-mate and BFF, Megan.  It took a while getting used to not having her there for our pre-bedtime talks.  I was SO lucky to have Miss Congeniality as my roommate.  Miss you, Meggie!
The best roommates I could imagine having, post-pageant.  I stayed with Morgan, South Dakota's Sweetheart, Alix, Delaware's Sweetheart, and Megan, Nebraska's Sweetheart.  I chose a picture to hide all of the tears that were flowing at this point ;)
Okay, I couldn't resist.  Here are their beautiful faces, tears and all.

            I am proud to say I made the top ten at the National Sweetheart pageant, as well as won the interview award for my group!  It was such an honor to be named the recipient of the first ever Ronnie Reed Community Service Award.  The award is named after a man who was very special to the Hoopeston community and was always at the pageant to lend a hand.  Hearing our hostesses and directors speak of Ronnie was so extremely humbling.  I will continue to promote my platform in a way that would make Ronnie and my friends in Hoopeston proud.  I feel more motivated than ever to use what I learned at the Sweetheart pageant to prepare for Miss New Jersey 2014!  
         …Until then, I’ll be busy at school.  With classes, sorority events, and my job as a University Ambassador, I was plenty busy last semester.  This year, I am still an active member of Alpha Gamma Delta, I can officially give tours as a University Ambassador, and I’ve earned a few more responsibilities!  I’m honored to have made the 2013-2014 HPU Dance Team.  The team dances at sporting events, and takes part in community events!  I’ve already participated in a United Way food drive with the team and introduced the girls to my annual “Dye Your Hair to Show You Care” event.  After practice, my teammates and I dyed a lock of hair pink to raise Breast Cancer Awareness and donated to The Dancers Care Foundation.  (THANK YOU to my wonderful mother and Aunt “Chell” for driving all the way down to North Carolina to help!!  I love seeing them so much, and the event would not have been possible without the hard work and energy from them.  Love you gals :)  We will also be selling handmade hairbands to raise funds!  I’ve always had a fun time with this particular service opportunity, and it was awesome to introduce it to a new group of friends!  The dance team also joined together to run in a 5K presented by my sorority!  We ran to raise money for a man who beat cancer and needs help with his hefty medical bills.  The “Fight for TOMorrow” was a blast and a huge success!
 Here is the team sporting our neon for the "Fight for TOMorrow" 5K!
United Way collected a ton of food for their annual food drive!
Just a handful of the girls who dyed their hair to show they care!
 Just a couple snapshots of my the Alpha Gamma Delta "Roseball" Fall formal :)  Where would I be without Christopher and Katie?

            In addition to making the dance team, I’ve been invited to join the National Society of Leadership and Success, also known as Sigma Alpha Pi.  This semester I’ll be busy taking leadership courses and meeting with a Success Networking Team before my induction in April!
            I’m elated to share that after plenty of research and talking with my professors and advisors, I’ve made the decision to change my major from Strategic Communication to Psychology.  I cannot wait to continue with my education and make a difference in the lives of others!! 
            With all of these changes and additions to my busy, jam-packed, never-a-dull-moment, amazing life, I will keep you updated as often as possible!  Until my next blog, please feel free to follow my Keep Calm and Volunteer On twitter, @KCandVO.  My countdown to Miss New Jersey has already begun, and I am already SO excited for another week of fun in June.  With 18 girls crowned already, it’s already starting to feel real!  (Congratulations to all of our beautiful titleholders I didn’t have the pleasure of watching in their local pageants!!)  There are Only 237 Days until the final night of competition—are you ready?!