Now that I’ve shared a few basic details about myself, I wanted to dive into what makes me tick. A big part of my why for participating in the Miss America Organization is my social impact initiative (SII).
My SII is entitled “servesteem,” which stands for increasing self-esteem through service. I’ve been perfecting this idea for the past five years. It is in honor of my great uncle, Lynn Howard who was severely disabled mentally and physically. Lynn was my very best friend and biggest supporter and I adored him and the time we spent together. My family and I became his legal guardians upon his parent’s passing and we visited him and the men at the facility he resided in often.
When I was with Lynn, I felt as if I was worth something. The idea that I was helping him and doing something for him he couldn’t do for himself made me feel needed. I loved my time with him and his friends. I grew up surrounded by individuals with special needs and disabilities and it felt very normal and natural for me to be in a constant state of service.
When he passed away, it broke me. Not only did I lose my best friend, but I lost the person that made me feel the most special. My self-esteem was crushed and I developed anorexia and bulimia. I grew to dislike myself and everything that made me, me. I missed him and missed myself, I could hardly recognize the person I had become.
Eventually, I realized that the best way for me to overcome this and feel like more of myself was to serve others. This is when I truly learned the impact that service can have not only on the lives of those you serve but the impact it can make on those giving the service as well.
I grew up in a family that is extremely service-oriented. We’ve gone on several humanitarian trips and are always looking for ways we can serve in our community. Every day before we leave the house, my dad reminds us to “do something good for someone today.” When we get home, he expects a report of what we did.
Because of this upbringing, I wanted to find a way to inspire others around me to serve and get involved as well. I first turned to social media and designed a servesteem Instagram account and invited others to serve and share their simple acts of service using the hashtag #servesteem.
Much to my surprise, I also had the opportunity to share my message on national TV! This came about because I wanted to do something for my new-found friend Michael who is autistic and was asked to his school’s homecoming dance as a prank. I heard about this and knew I could do something to make it better. I coordinated with his school and teachers to ask him to the dance. One of his teachers and mentors videoed the experience and posted it on her personal Twitter account. Within days, it had gone viral and I had no idea! The video of my efforts gained over 16 million views.
After the dance, Michael and I were invited to appear on “The Steve Harvey Show” and share our experience and message on service and bullying. It has been an absolute blessing. Michael and I are now very close friends.
Did you know those who serve just one hour a week — that’s less than 10 mins a day — are 50% less likely to indulge in drugs, alcohol, harmful behaviors and feel better about themselves as a whole? Research for this was done by the University Of Colorado. Not only do I know that service is the best outlet to find true happiness and self-esteem because it worked for me, but that it works because the statistics prove it. By doing simple acts of kindness, we are creating positive chain reactions that will last a lifetime.
As Miss Utah, my first initiative will be the “Service Spotlight” interviews I will be doing with service organizations to share their messages and worthy causes with the Miss Utah community. I also want these to be a resource for those who are looking for ways to serve, I truly believe every human has the will and want to serve, but they don’t always know how or where their efforts would be best received.
I have some other plans in the works that I’m excited to share with you as my year unfolds. Please be sure to follow along @missamericaut on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.