Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sad News for Rochester, Great for New York State

At 11am this Wednesday morning the wonderful mayor of Rochester will be announced as Andrew Cuomo's running mate for the 2010 Governor election. Mayor Robert Duffy has proven his effectiveness in our community previously as the Rochester Chief of Police and currently as mayor.

You may remember the letter I had written to Mayor Duffy right after I won Miss Greater Rochester regarding my support of his mayoral control of schools in Rochester and how I hoped he would include the performing arts as a strong part of his pending curriculum. Mayor Duffy responded right away to my letter, than you can read in a previous post, commending me on my recent crowning and my ability to speak my opinion and hopes for the Greater Rochester area.

Should Andrew Cuomo and Robert Duffy win the election we will certainly be sad to see him leave his mayor's office in Rochester but will be thrilled to know that our state will undoubtedly be put back in the right direction with his diligence, compassion, commitment, and strength as a leader.

To read more about this announcement click HERE

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Miss America Organization News

Have you heard the news? Miss America has just signed a three year contract with ABC! That's right! We are moving back to network television for the 2011 pageant just in time to celebrate our 90th Anniversary.

I was so excited to hear this news and hope that with this contract on a major network television channel, so many more people will be able to tune in and see just how amazing the Miss America Organization is. In the video I have posted below chairman of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell sums it up perfectly. He says, "Miss America is about scholarship, Miss America is about community service, and Miss America is about talent. That alone distinguishes us and Miss America is a part of the tapestry of our country because of that."

I am so honored, grateful, and proud to be a part of the Miss America Organization and hope to be there myself in January on ABC :)


A Night of Dreams

I had the pleasure of attending the Big Brothers Big Sisters Asian Mentoring Committee gala. The evening was titled "A Night of Dreams: Evening Arts Showcase Fundraiser" and served not just as an opportunity to raise money for such an amazing cause as Big Brothers Big Sisters but as a chance for the young boys and girls of the Asian Mentoring Committee of BBBS to express their dreams, hopes for their futures, and their Asian heritage through art. Kids expressing themselves through art? You KNOW I was there with bells and whistles!

It was a fantastic event and I thoroughly enjoyed the kids' artwork. I couldn't believe that some of the art was done by children! It is certainly a very talented bunch of kids benefiting from the kindness of the volunteers serving as their mentors.

Here is just a sampling of the array of art at the showcase held at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA):

This piece of art shows a young girl as she views herself now in America and what her home was like in China

This is a poem I loved and was moved by, written by a ten year old girl who writes about her new life in America and how she is so grateful for the freedom she has living here.

In addition to the amazing and touching artwork, guests of honor Judge Michael A. Corriero and Qing Hong Wu spoke about their Big and Little relationship and how it has affected each of them respectively. Qing Hong Wu credits his relationship with his Big Judge Corriero as setting him on the right path and teaching him how to live a respectful life.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is truly a fantastic organization that allows volunteers in our community to reach out to young boys and girls who may not have any other responsible adults to turn to. This mentorship combined with the use of the arts as a means of self expression undoubtedly is saving the lives of many kids in our community and is teaching these children healthy and successful life skills that may not otherwise be afforded to them.

Bravo to a wonderful job done not just on this "Evening of Dreams" but every day with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Special thanks and congratulations to my friend, and one of the organizers of this event, Richard Fu!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Miss America vs Miss USA

Many people outside of the "pageant circle" do not realize that the Miss America Organization and Miss USA are two completely different entities. All I'm going to say is that I am VERY proud to be a part of the Miss America Organization and I'm going to let this video clear up any other confusion there might be between the two...

WATCH: Difference between Miss America Organization and Miss USA

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Visit to Quest Elementary School

Today I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Quest Elementary School in Hilton. What a wonderful school!

I was welcomed with open arms by Ms. Nancy Johnstone, who happens to be the most recently named Teacher of the Year in Hilton Schools and it was no wonder to see why! Her kindergarten classroom was teeming with colors, words (both English and Spanish!), shapes, drawings, pictures, caterpillars and an incubator soon to be home to baby chicks!

The young students were an absolute joy! I was so impressed with how smart, well behaved, and curious the kids were at only 5 years old! I was treated to a performance of "God Bless America" and the "Helicopter Song." I spoke with the kids about how much I love music and encouraged the kids to work hard in every subject of school.

Silly picture!

Look at those smiles!

When I asked the boys and girls if they had any questions the first question was asked by one little girl who raised her hand and asked, "Do you like snacks?" I laughed and thought about how hard I'm trying to get ready for the swimsuit competition and answered "Yes. I love snacks." And in case anyone is curious my favorite snack that I plan to enjoy post-swimsuit competition is definitely Crumbs Cupcakes. Particularly the m&m kind. Mmmm...

I digress!

I spent the rest of the afternoon helping the boys and girls with geometry, holding hands as we walked to PE class, and passing out snacks. Before I left I let a couple of the students try on my crown. As you can imagine the kids were thrilled! I think we may have a future Miss Greater Rochester or two in the bunch!

May is for Miracles

This month is the Children's Miracle Network "May is for Miracles" campaign. As you all know the Miss America National Platform is the Children's Miracle Network so I figured there was no better time than to kick my fundraising into high gear!

I rallied all weekend long for the Children's Miracle Network talking to the people of Rochester, friends, and families asking for just $1. My fundraising for this weekend culminated at the new Walmart Super Center in Victor. My total raised this weekend was a whopping $520! AMAZING! That brings me to an even $700 thus far. So close, yet so far, from my $1000 goal so keep those donations coming!

I set up camp right in front of the entrance :)

Bet you didn't know I was so artistic! (kidding...although I do think the sparkles added a special something hehe)

My two favorite girls, Sophie and Nellie!

One of the best parts about this fundraiser outside of Walmart was that people were not afraid to challenge me and ask me just what exactly the Children's Miracle Network and the Miss America Organization does. I was so proud to tell Walmart's patrons about the amazing partnership between the two organizations and that together miracles are created for the lives of 17 million children and their families each year.

Some of the people passing through Walmart's doors were already well aware of all that the Children's Miracle Network can do. One woman told me that the Golisano Children's Hospital, one of the 170 CMN Hospitals across the country, saved her grandson's life. It was that story, and the one I'm about to share below, that made me know my efforts were more than worth the while.

A Walmart employee came outside on his break and told me about a former Walmart employee, named Wally Straight, who lost one of his grandchildren just before the child's 5th birthday. Wally made the promise to raise $200,000 in memory of his grandson for the Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong and would work tiring 8 hour shifts collection just $1 donations at the door. This past May a generous $4 donation put Wally just past the $200,000 mark.

Folks, just $1 can make a tremendous difference. Donate today!

Flower City!

I was SO excited to be a part of the Lilac Festival Parade this year!

Rochester, NY was originally known as the flOUR city based upon the numerous flour mills along the Genesee River in what is now known as downtown Rochester. This nickname has been transformed and renamed the flOWER city for the magnificent 10 day world renown celebration known as the Lilac Festival. The Lilac Festival kicks off summer in Rochester and expands even beyond the impressive 500 variety/1200 bushes of lilacs. No really, there are a TON of gorgeous lilacs. The second you step foot outside your car at Highland park you are overwhelmed with the beautiful smell of these flowers! Despite this phenomenal main attraction the festival is so much more! The Lilac Festival has free entertainment on the main stage of national recording artists, children's entertainment, arts and craft vendors, exhibitors, and so much more! The Lilac Festival is undeniable one of the greatest pride and joys of our city!

The Lilac Festival has a very special place in my heart. In 2004 I was a junior in high school just starting to look at colleges. I knew I had my heart set on the very prestigious-and very expensive!-Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. My parents made it clear that I needed scholarships for NYU to be a possibility. I remember finding this tiny little ad in the Democrat and Chronicle advertising a scholarship competition run by the Lilac Festival. I submitted the essays and transcripts and was thrilled to be called as a semifinalist for an interview. I went, met with the judges, answered all their questions, and was called later that evening to be told I was a finalist and needed to bring an evening gown with me that Saturday night. Evening gown? Hmmm...maybe it's a formal gala or banquet? Nope! Pageant! I showed up and was taught how to walk down the run way and turn all the right ways. The other girls all knew each other and had been competing since they were little. I remember at the time of the crowning I was so disappointed not to be called as a runner up, one of the Lilacettes, only to have my disappointment be transformed into pure shock when my name was called as the 2004 Lilac Festival Queen; the first Queen since 1987. That's correct, I entered and won my first pageant by accident. I can still hear my mom's shriek from the audience haha

My year as the 2004 Lilac Festival Queen was absolutely amazing. I worked as an ambassador for the Lilac Festival and for the Greater Rochester area (foreshadowing anyone?). One of the reporters I worked closely with was Melanie Barnas-Simmons, who at the time was the president of the Miss Greater Rochester Organization. Over the next couple years, well past my year as the Lilac Festival Queen, Melanie continuously tried to convince me to compete for the Miss Greater Rochester title. I finally decided to compete in 2007 and was surprised and honored to be named 1st RU. You know where this story is going by now....

As bold of a statement as this might be, there is no doubt that the Lilac Festival changed my life and helped me to grow into the confident, articulate, well rounded, and socially conscious woman I am today. I was SO happy to return to the festival again this year and ride in the parade as Miss Greater Rochester. It was a wonderful feeling walking around the festival and seeing my Lilac Festival Family, particularly Jill Morgan, Mr. & Mrs. Jim LeBeau, and "Uncle" Phil! These people are true representatives of what Rochester and the Lilac Festival is all about-genuinely good, kind, and hard working individuals all of whom I am tremendously grateful for their continued friendship and support!

Here are a couple pictures of the parade:

Your eyes aren't fooling you if you think that car looks tiny! I actually had the opportunity to ride in a Smart Car, a fuel efficient, green, and new "it" car of today! Special thanks to the Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo (one of the exhibitors at the Lilac Festival) for lending me this car and driver Wes for the parade!

Have you stopped by the festival yet? There's still time! The Lilac Festival 2010 runs until Sunday May 23rd! Stop by Highland Park today!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Donate just $1 and help make a difference!

The Children's Miracle Network is a non-profit organization that helps to raise money for medical care, research, and education for needy sick children and their families. There are 170 different CMN Hospitals in the country and Rochester is fortunate enough to be home to one at the Rochester Golisano Children's Hospital. The Children's Miracle Network is proud to say they touch the lives of over 17 million kids each year!

You can help do your part in aiding such a fantastic organization. My personal goal as Miss Greater Rochester 2010 is to raise $1000. Quite a lofty goal I realize and I still have a long way to go! Help me get there and donate today-even just $1 will make a difference!



Thursday, May 6, 2010

It hurts so good!

My abs legs hurt....I think even my eyelashes hurt. My everything hurts!

I had my first training session with my personal trainer, Damon at NYSC, and at the start of the session I told Damon I wanted to be worked so hard that it would be difficult to get out of bed the next morning. Well mission accomplished! It's that good kind of hurt though where you know that you're working your hardest and that there will definitely be positive results.

Damon was awesome. I'm so excited to be training with him at NYSC because he is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about physical fitness. He worked me hard and encouraged me to not give up. One of the things he said that really motivated me when I was about to fall out of an extremely long plank was "You can't just quit when you're on stage in swimsuit-you can't just walk off! So are you going to quit now!?" Talk about motivation!

I have no doubt he's going to have me in fabulous swimsuit shape in no time!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Letter from Mayor Duffy

Mayor Robert Duffy responded to my letter regarding mayoral control and how I hope the performing arts will play a large role in his developing curriculum plan. I am so excited to share it all with you!

April 27, 2010

Dear Katie,

Thank you for your letter of April 23, 2010. Please accept my congratulations for being crowned as Miss Greater Rochester 2010.

Thank you as well for your words of support and encouragement regarding the mayoral Control initiative. I am glad to learn that we share the same goals.

I in no way wish to diminish the central message of your letter (i.e., supporting the arts in education), but I must share my observation that, in addition to whatever arts instruction and education you were provided, someone, somewhere along the line did excellent instructional work guiding you in English Language Arts, composition, persuasive argument, and rational thought. Yours is one of the better written letters that I have read in some time.

To the importance of arts in education, I am firmly in support of a strong arts curriculum. The Rochester City School District's School of the Arts is one of the best secondary schools in the District, and I think it no coincidence that its dual focus on academics and the arts is a major contributing factor. Students there attend school more frequently, graduate at a higher rate, and advance to post-secondary education or other desired pursuits more often than is the case at most other City high schools. It may not be appropriate to replicate the SOTA experience in all schools, but it provides us with valuable lessons.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Robert J. Duffy

Well! I am just BEAMING!

Rochester, we are so fortunate to have such a responsive, intelligent, kindhearted, and art supporting mayor! I am thrilled with Mayor Duffy's response and his commitment to the arts and look forward to continue to push for the arts in other city and suburb classrooms and communities!