Jr. Miss program: Not typical pageant

Voices of the Peninsula

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Some of you may have heard of a program called America's Jr. Miss. Perhaps you even saw the Alaska Jr. Miss program in Soldotna about three months ago on Feb. 7.

If you were like me, you were a little wary of the title and of being associated with the program, thinking that Jr. Miss would just be another beauty pageant. I would like to tell you briefly of my pleasant surprise at the uniqueness of Jr. Miss, of my journey through the program and of how it has changed me into a better person.

I heard about the Jr. Miss program from the counseling secretary; she told me that it was a wonderful program and was the largest scholarship distributor to high school senior girls. I was skeptical, but as I filled out the college-style application I was surprised to find categories such as scholastics, interview, talent, poise and fitness no bathing suit contest? things were definitely shaping up!

As 24 girls came together at the beginning of the weeklong, activity-packed program, little did we know that by the end we would be changed forever and would have amazing experiences to share. The girls I met were nothing like what I had expected; they were smart, talented, humble, fun to be around and, overall, unfailingly nice. I didn't know that I could learn so much, gain so much confidence and be touched by so many wonderful people in one week.

The final night, I received the title of Alaska's Jr. Miss and the honor of representing myself, an amazing group of young women, my community and my state.

As Alaska's Jr. Miss for only a short time, I have already been able be involved in the Fur Rondy Parade, presentations at local elementary schools and a workshop in San Francisco with five other state Jr. Miss winners.

Many people worked behind the scenes to help me along my journey and to put on the Alaska program. I would like to thank Mary Green and Reean Pitts, Alaska's Jr. Miss program coordinators; all of the host parents who housed the girls for the week-long program, and especially my host parents, John and Jacquie Steckel; Linda Schirmers, Annette King, and everyone who helped with the production; all of the local businesses who sponsored the program, including a special thanks to Gina at Halcyon's Spalon, and everyone at Magic Moments; all of the drivers, our choreographers Terry and Martina, and our poise instructor Bunny Chong and her husband Al; our fitness trainer Trish Kopp, and all of the other wonderful, dedicated people who made Jr. Miss an experience that I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life.

Thank you again. I am very proud to be a part of this program and to be representing the state of Alaska at America's Jr. Miss this June in Alabama. I encourage any young woman who is a senior in high school next year to participate in this program. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Kaitlin Vadla will graduate from Soldotna High School tonight as one of the top students and top scholarship winners. She is a past Caring for the Kenai winner, a 4-H leader and organized an education forum this winter. She is the daughter of Bruce and Penny Vadla.

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