Wednesday, June 4, 2014

One Week to Go!

       One week from today, Miss New Jersey week will be underway!  I can't believe it.  These months of preparation have been so fulfilling, and I can't wait for the culmination in Ocean City!  Here's what I've been up to the past week since my last update…
   On Memorial Day, I had the pleasure of teaming with the Memorial Day Flower Foundation in leaving roses on graves of United States Veterans.  My Miss Seashore Line's Outstanding Pre-Teen and Teen, Emily and Gabi, joined me in memorializing our county heroes at the Gloucester County Veterans Cemetery.  The day became even more special when a gentleman visiting the final resting place of his father approached us with his sincerest appreciation.  My conversation with him was a reminder that the smallest acts of kindness can truly impact someone's life.

       The next day, I was finally able to take a trip to Ocean City for my first beach day of the summer!  While there, I couldn't stop thinking of how exciting it will be to share the very same boardwalk with the Miss NJ Class of 2014!
I couldn't help but snap a picture in front of our beloved Music Pier!! 

       Between gym sessions, mock interviews, talent rehearsals, and so much more, I was able to visit my friends at the Miracle League for another ball game!  I cannot explain how much I enjoy catching up with my "buddies" at each game.  They have such beautiful hearts and I feel so privileged to be part of their Special Olympics experience!  At this game, my fellow contestant and good friend Courtney was able to join!  We were also lucky to have had our reigning Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen, Sammy, with us!  I love getting to hear about Sammy's year thus far and her plans for MAOTeen--you heard it here first, she's going to do BIG things! :)
 My girl Elise is always first in line for a crowning picture :)
 Ella wasn't interested in holding my crown, but she was glad to shake my hand instead!
 I love leading the teams in the signing of the National Anthem!
Beautiful day for baseball :)

       To round out the week, I had the absolute pleasure of joining team "Fight Club" at the first ever Philadelphia NEDA Walk!  The National Eating Disorder Association provides support and assistance to victims of eating disorders and their families.  I felt so incredibly humbled and honored to walk for all of the amazing people I know who have suffered with a debilitating disorder.  
 HUGE shout-out to my beautiful best friend, Sarah, not only for being such an inspirational recovery warrior, but for being our team leader!  We love you! :)
Team "Fight Club" ready to take on the walk (and explore the venue--the Philadelphia Zoo :)!

       I was so glad to have been invited back to Centre City Elementary (my alma mater) to speak with some of my "Kindness Kids!"  These exceptional 1st graders truly have a grasp of what it means to be kind and selfless.  I read them my new book, "Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler!"
 Here we are taking a "selflessie" :)
As always, they have some rather interesting and unique questions for me!

       All in all, this has been such a productive, rewarding week!  I can't wait to see what the next 6 days have in store before it's officially here- Miss NJ week!!  Stay tuned for my last pre-pageant blog soon enough :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Spring Update!

       Hi friends! Sorry for the delay in posting--as I'm sure you know, I have been as busy as ever this Spring season!  Since my last post, so much has happened!  I've officially made it halfway through my undergraduate career, amongst several other accomplishments.  Not only did I survive the semester, but I earned a Millis Scholar Athlete Award and a Gamma Eta Strive for Pi Award!  For now, I'll give you just a few highlights of this amazing semester.  For a detailed day-by-day run-down of the past few months, you can visit any of my social media sites!  The links are as follows:


       As all college students know, general education courses are often seen as something to dread.  For me, I've never looked forward to a math or science "gen-ed."  At High Point University, we are lucky to have several unique general education options that are enjoyable and relevant.  I chose to enroll in "Philosophy and Ethics of Education."  My expectations for this class were far exceeded as I was informed it is what we at HPU call a "service learning" course.  For 15 weeks, twice a week,  I visited Oak Hill Elementary School and taught a group of students about service.  Oak Hill is a Title One school where most of the children receive service rather than perform it.  Here are a few highlights from my time with the Oak Hill kids!
Their mascot is "Oakie" the Owl :)

 Our first service project was a donation to a nursing home! I cut the bottoms of water bottles to resemble snowflakes, and had the kids decorate them!  They learned all about recycling and the ability to brighten someone else's day through an enjoyable craft project!  

 For one lesson, we talked about the meaning of Volunteerism and read "The Littlest Volunteers."  We then completed a volunteer word-search and talked about how we can each become volunteers for our own communities!

 The "Rainbow Loom" bracelet trend is rampant throughout elementary schools everywhere.  For another service lesson, we made bracelets to donate to children in the hospital!
We decorated these foam shapes with "Get Well Soon" and "Happy Easter" messages before I left my student group for Easter Break.  While I was home, I delivered their creations along with flowers donated through my Children's Miracle Network Easter flower sale to patients at Inspira Hospital!
My sweet cousin Maddi joined me in delivering the goodies to Inspira!
To combine my own service with my Oak Hill experience, I donated ten boxes of recycled crayons that I had collected from Applebee's of Deptford through "Color My World."  I know I made an impact both during my semester, and after I left :)

       During my Spring Break, I was able to come home to New Jersey to kick-start my "Kindness Kids" campaign!  I visited my own 5th grade teachers Mrs. Dragon and Mrs. Connelly, to set up an awesome program.  I gave both classes a lesson on volunteerism and we completed a project to get their  service gears turning!
Thank you so much Mrs. Connelly and Mrs. Dragon for helping me launch this awesome program!

Since social media has become so prominent in young students, I decided to incorporate a short lesson on how to use social media positively!  Whenever the students perform a kind act or volunteer in some way, they add it to their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use the hashtag #KindnessKids and #KindIsCool!  This has been a great way for me to connect with my friends while I'm at school. 

I took a photo of their crafts and posted it on Instagram while they finished up to show them how quickly you can spread a positive message and to encourage them to only use that ability to benefit others.

       I was especially excited to visit a first grade class at Centre City Elementary School to visit my very own teacher, Mrs. Spicer!  Speaking to young children about volunteerism is so refreshing and exciting. Watching them comprehend just how simple and fulfilling philanthropy can be is truly touching.  I read the students "The Littlest Volunteers" and joined them in coloring St. Patrick's Day cards!  I then donated the cards to the Gloucester County Serv-A-Tray program to add to their meals on St. Patrick's Day.

       Being a part of a sorority has given me the opportunity to spread my "Keep Calm and Volunteer On" mission even further!  As Philanthropy Coordinator, I have planned plenty of events and fundraisers to benefit JDRF!  I am so proud to have completed my first MAJOR fundraiser, "Twist Off."  It was a huge success and tons of fun!
 If you haven't heard of "messy Twister," this is the aftermath…

The winning team, "Kappa Alpha," after their victorious game!

       After finishing up my Sophomore year and returning home, the business didn't end!  I kept myself busy with plenty of service opportunities and pageant prep :)  Here are a few highlights of the month of May thus-far!
Miss New Jersey Golf Outing with my fabulous pageant sister, Anna :)  We were stationed at the free car hole!  Anyone who got a hole-in-one won a car.  Lots of pressure for us to be the witnesses ;)
A small piece of the Class of 2014 at the golf outing!

One of my favorite volunteer opportunities is being a "Buddy" for the Miracle League!  My cousin, Maddi, and friend, Hannah, joined me in playing baseball with the special needs students of Bankbridge school.

Another tradition I love!  I walked for the third time in the Shirley Mae Breast Cancer Walk on the Miss NJ team!  Here a few of my pageant sisters and I took a pit stop for a photo-op with the Miss America statue outside of Boardwalk Hall!  

I visited the Woodbury Elementary school's "GALs" program to teach them how to be Kindness Kids! We made Mother's Day flower pots and I delivered them to the Ronald McDonald House of South Jersey.  Hopefully, the mothers residing at the RMH were able to find this small token as a reason to smile during their family's difficult time.

Thank you to everyone who helped make my "Zumbathon" a success!  I was able to reach my fundraising goal for Children's Miracle Network and have a great time :)

 Caroline, leader of the "People for the Poor" organization and I hit it off at this worth-while fundraising event!
 Donations benefit folks in shelters and at soup kitchens.  This little guy was eager to help :)

My Miss Seashore Line Outstanding teen, Gabi, helped me collect funds!

 My Princess friend, Becca, and I made a matching bracelet and ring at my pageant sister's CMN fundraiser!  Thanks, Anna, for such a fun party!
Showing off the bling :)

     Straight from the successful fundraiser, we took a spontaneous road trip to Staten Island to watch the final night of Miss New York!  Lindsey, Anna, Cierra, Courtney, and I had such a blast together--it made us SO excited for Miss New Jersey week!!
Jersey girls take Staten Island!

What's a road trip without a car selfie?

     The next day, with very little sleep, I traveled to the Seashore Line Resort for their beautiful Memorial Day ceremony!  I was humbled to sing the National Anthem and honor those who serve our country.  
 I placed a flag in the garden in remembrance of my Pop-pop who served our country in the Korean War.
I just love how the bagpipes truly top off such a touching ceremony!  Ron is my director Carol's son and is so very talented.

       Directly after the ceremony I was reunited with some of my fellow contestants for a pageant boot camp at Training Aspects - our Miss NJ fitness sponsor!  Thank you so much to everyone at Training Aspects for pushing us to our limits and making it so fun!
For some reason we decided to take a picture after our grueling work-out…lesson learned.

       Here's a sneak peak of my Miss New Jersey swimsuit, sponsored by Kandice Pelletier!  I can't wait to wear it in just 20 short days.  

       Besides Lifestyle and Fitness in swimsuit, I have been preparing for my talent, interview, and gown presentation quite a bit!  It's crunch time and I couldn't love it more :)  To continue following my prep, be sure to follow me on those accounts listed in the beginning of this post!  I'll be updating frequently and can't wait to embark on this incredible journey :)