Four years ago I found myself on this stage simply because I thought it’d be cool to be Miss Greater Rochester. I wore my high school junior prom dress, a swimsuit from Hollister and when I placed 1st runner up I thought that was it. I figured I gave it a try and had fun. But Executive Director, Calista Amering, cornered me before I even stepped foot off the stage saying, “You have to do this again. You could go really far.” Against my better judgment I listened to Calista, only to find that my life would be changed forever.
Tonight is unique as this is not just a farewell to this past year, but as it is the closing of a major chapter in my life. It is impossible to recount every significant moment and experience of my past four years in the Miss America Organization, 3 of which were spent as a title holder. Nor can I describe every lesson I learned and times I grew from the experiences I had and the people that I met. Simply, I have been changed for the better. I would not be the woman I am today had I not been challenged to gain a new found awareness and concern for the world around me, formulate and articulate my own opinions, learn how to market myself and my ideas, compete only with myself, and to put my own best foot forward, all the while walking gracefully across a stage in just a swimsuit and heels.
When the 2010 pageant season arrived I discovered that the Miss Greater Rochester pageant would be held as the very last pageant in the state. I had to decide whether to compete for any of the 10 other titles I was eligible for or to wait for the last one, the title that I really wanted, Miss Greater Rochester. While it was a risk in my last year of eligibility to put all my eggs in one basket so to speak it was an easy decision to make. I knew if I was going to compete at Miss NY one last time I wanted to do it wearing the Greater Rochester name. I wanted to represent my hometown, the city that I love, the city that is home to the people that I love most, and the city that I wanted to make a difference in. I was so tremendously proud to have been called Miss Greater Rochester 2010 and felt honored every single time I put on that crown and sash throughout this past year.
I spent the first part of my year leading up to the Miss New York pageant in Albany, focusing on my preparation and service. I promoted my personal platform, “Inspiring Young Minds Through the Performing Arts,” by speaking at both high school and elementary schools encouraging kids to get involved in the arts. I reached out to the leaders of our community challenging them to keep the arts alive in our area, even receiving written correspondence with former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy. I held multiple fundraisers raising money for The Children’s Miracle Network, raising over $700 in just 2 months. I obtained and met with new sponsors of The Miss Greater Rochester Organization all of whom helped me to prepare for the state competition.
I was so happy with my performance at the 2010 Miss New York State pageant. I felt that I did the best I could in every phase of competition and that I had represented the Greater Rochester Area well. I was thrilled to be called into the Top 10 in such a competitive year and although I didn’t bring that state crown home to western NY I left believing I did the Greater Rochester name proud. My final score card for Miss NY State Pageant? 1 preliminary talent win, 3 times top 10 placement, 1 time top 5 placement as 4th Runner up. This success is not mine alone, but rather belongs to all the people that helped me thoughout the ups and downs of these past 4 years:
To the young women who were first my fellow competitors but ultimately lifelong friends, you know who you are, I am forever grateful for the times we’ve laughed, cried, painted each other tan, and curled each others’s hair. Thank you for your friendship.
Thank you to all of the sponsors of the Miss Greater Rochester Organization, especially Rochester Athletic Club, Tiffanie Prota Designs, John Smile, Damon at NYSC and Spinelli dentalfor helping me to prepare for the Miss NY state pageant
Melanie Barnas, thank you for your leadership, kindness, and friendship throughout these past four years. I am so grateful for your guidance and support.
Aunt Anne, Uncle Jim, Aunt Kathy and family in Colorado, Welch Family, Peggy and John, and Maura, thank you all for your positive thoughts, prayers, and support. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family.
Mom and Dad, know that I am where I am today because of you. From the time I was a little girl you encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the tools to do just that. You inspire me to be the best daughter I can be and I live and work every day to do you proud. Thank you for your unconditional love.
And Calista, from the very beginning you believed in me even at the times I didn’t believe in myself. You saw something in me and pushed me to constantly strive to reach my greatest potential. You’ve celebrated with me and cried with me. You have been a coach, a mentor, a therapist of sorts, and above all else a great friend.
Tonight as I pass on my crown, my final farewell as a titleholder, I am honored to take on a new title as your partner, the Co-Executive Director of the Miss Greater Rochester Organization. I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for and with me these past four years, and I am honored for this opportunity you are giving me today.
The later part of my year as Miss Greater Rochester was more of a transition into the role I just mentioned that I am taking on today: Co-Executive Director. I reached out to various groups and employed new marketing methods to promote our organization. I am thrilled to take on this new leadership role and see things from the other side of the table. I am honored to continue on and give back to the Miss Greater Rochester Organization, an organization that has given me so much. I cannot wait to begin this amazing journey with the young lady about to be crowned my successor.
To the new Miss Greater Rochester 2011: take this opportunity and run with it. Give it 110% and the rewards will be endless. Push yourself past your limits and you will achieve more than you ever thought possible. Know that you have the chance to change your life right now as well as the lives of others.
And so I say thank you and farewell and close this chapter as another one opens. I now know not to wear my junior prom dress or a Hollister swimsuit in competition and that being Miss Greater Rochester is so much more than just “cool.” It is a tremendous honor and responsibility. I am so grateful to have been your Miss Greater Rochester and for all that I have learned these past four years. My journey has been nothing short of astonishing.