Monday, June 11, 2012

The Miss Alabama IMPACT Award

Just a few days ago, I shared some of my favorite Miss Alabama Pageant memories with you, and explained how important my years in the Miss America Organization were to me. I absolutely would not be where I am today without the incredible experiences and relationships I have from my time in the Miss Alabama family. Without the scholarship money I won while competing, I wouldn't have been able to graduate college debt free. (And had I been saddled with student loan debt, Rusty and I would not have been able to start our non-profit organization The Sound of Hope). I also wouldn't have learned the poise, confidence, and public speaking skills I have - which are vital to my role as the Executive Director of The Sound of Hope. My time as a local titleholder in the Miss America Organization, and my years competing in The Miss Alabama pageant helped shape me into the best version of myself that I could possibly be. And although I never won the title of Miss Alabama or Miss America - God used those programs to get me exactly where I needed to be today.

I believe "to whom much is given, much is required."  My life is richer because of these incredible programs, and I really wanted to be able to give back to something that gave so much to me. So a few months ago I approached my husband Rusty with the idea of creating a new award and scholarship for a contestant at the Miss Alabama Pageant. He loved the idea of helping another young woman through college, and encouraged me to go for it. He had a side job that allowed us to save up some extra money over the past few months..... and so, this year, the Miss Alabama IMPACT Award was born!
The Miss Alabama IMPACT Award

Award Stipulations:
25% of the score is for the contestant's service work done with her platform
25% of the score is for her involvement and service above and beyond her chosen platform
25% of the score is chosen through a vote by her fellow contestants
25% of the score is chosen through a vote by the Pageant Moms – the volunteers who work with the contestants during pageant week
The Miss Alabama IMPACT Award is given to the contestant who is making the biggest IMPACT on the world around her. She must demonstrate exemplary involvement and service, as well as exhibit grace and kindness to her peers and everyone she works with. A good description of this young woman would include words like generous, hardworking, enthusiastic, engaging, compassionate, and inspiring.

The winner of the 2012 Miss Alabama IMPACT Award & $1,000 scholarship
was the beautiful Beth Milam, Miss JSU!

I got a chance to talk to Beth for just a few minutes at the luncheon (we're having a lunch date soon!) and I was amazed when I heard that she just got back from Haiti 20 days ago! What are the odds of a young woman with a heart for missions winning my award? Isn't that incredible!?

I have had so many people stop and tell me how glad they were that she won, and how deserving she is of this award. It made both me and Rusty so excited to know that we have the privilege of investing into the life of such a special young woman!

But you know, the funny thing is - God turned this award into something so much bigger than I had planned. I just wanted to give back to a program that I believe in. I wanted to help give another young woman the opportunity to graduate college debt free! There are so many deserving girls at the Miss Alabama Pageant each year - but only 1 gets to walk away as Miss Alabama (and only 9 others get to place in the Top 10!) I wanted to provide an award that would allow one more young woman to be recognized and honored. But God wanted to do more....

Nan Teninbaum, the President of the Miss Alabama Board of Directors 

The President of the Miss Alabama Board was so excited about my award that she invited me to speak at the Miss Alabama Luncheon on Saturday. There, I got the opportunity to share my story with all the Miss Alabama Contestants and their families. It was amazing to get to tell them what God has done in and through my life since my pageant days! I have had several contestants and their parents come up to me since I spoke and tell me how much my story encouraged and inspired them.

Who could've guessed that God would use the fact that I didn't win Miss Alabama to inspire people?

I'd never thought of it before - but usually these contestants only hear from the current and former Miss Alabamas. They are incredible women - doctors, lawyers, business owners, models, etc. But the girls never get to hear about the lives of the other contestants who didn't become Miss Alabama. And the truth is - there are so many of us who are successful, inspirational women too! One of the contestants told me, "I just needed to know that there is life beyond the crown."

And there is. 

There is a rich, FULL life beyond the crown. As I told the girls at lunch - only one contestant will leave each year as Miss Alabama. But every single one of them will leave with scholarship money, incredible life experience, and some wonderful relationships. And it's what you do with those 3 things that can truly change the world!

Each woman that is a part of the Miss America Organization is so special, and they have so much to offer the world! It was an honor to get to remind the contestants of that, and I was so blessed to get to be back with my wonderful Miss Alabama Family! Thanks so much Nan for this amazing opportunity!

Here are a few more photos from the day....


My beautiful friend Courtney Porter, Miss Alabama 2011. 
Courtney and I competed together my last year at Miss Alabama, and we went to Auburn together too!

Ms. Judy - one of the many precious Pageant Moms who took care of me when I was a Miss AL Contestant! 
It was such a joy to see these ladies again (wish I'd gotten a picture with all of you!)


With Haley Ates (Miss Chattahoochee Valley) and Catherine Crosby Long (Miss Alabama 2003)

I was SO excited to see Katie Boyd, my BFF from my days at Miss AL! I love this girl sooo much! We have some great memories from 
the 2 years we competed together (she went on to compete for 3 more years and won over $45,000 of scholarship money!) 
Katie is absolutely precious, crazy talented, and in my heart, she will always be a Miss Alabama! ;)

I got to meet Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap!  She had one of my favorite crowning moments in Miss America history - she was so excited and emotional that she couldn't sit still long enough for them to crown her! Haha! I figure I would've been the same way. I have wanted to meet her for years, because she is a rare E-R-I-C-K-A!  I still remember how neat it was to see MISS AMERICA ERICKA in all the headlines when she won!

Opening number - featuring Jamie Langley (another amazing woman I competed with), 
Courtney Porter, & Dedra Eastland Pennington.

Beautiful Beth Milam, winner of the Miss Alabama IMPACT Award, in the final number!

Courtney Porter taking her final walk as Miss Alabama....

Your new Miss Alabama, Anna Laura Bryan!

*For those of you that want to see more pictures from Miss AL, I'll try to post some on facebook later this week!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful story and testimony, Ericka! God bless you for all you do!