Miss America urges students to dream big
Posted on 12/06/2012
SALEM -- Students were encouraged to never give up, be themselves, and dream big by Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler at the Salem Middle School Wednesday afternoon.
As part of her tour through Salem County, Kaeppeler, of Kenosha, Wis., took time to speak to young students about her platform: Circles of Support — Mentoring children of incarcerated parents and the importance of mentoring.
“Leading up to Miss America and getting through life I lived by these principles and I believe in dreaming big,” she said, encouraging students in grades 3 through 8 to keep pushing through life and reaching out to a mentor.
Sponsored by Mid-Atlantic States Career & Education Center with help from the Miss America Organization and students of the International Baccalaureate program, Kaeppeler arrived to the school and spoke about inspiring youth.
Six eleventh-grade students from Salem High School helped plan the assembly, and introduced Miss America to the student body. Additionally, the IB students initiated and judged an essay contest following in the theme of mentoring.
“The best parts are when the kids come up to her, and say that they have the same experiences,” IB student Jasmin Porter, 15, said about Miss America visiting her school district.
“It’s a surreal and once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s great for something great to happen in Salem.”
The IB program is aimed at students ages 3 to 19 to help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills to live, learn and work in the world, according to the IB organization website.
Winners of the essay contest were presented with certificates by Kaeppeler and students in the bleachers screamed wild and enthusiastic cheers.
Students were asked to write an essay about a person in their life who has played a heavy influential part of their lives and write about the qualities that make them such a great mentor.
“I know they were excited but I hope they saw past the crown. I want them to know that your past doesn’t have to define you,” Kaeppeler said. “If only one kid can remember this, who took this home, that’s enough.”
According to President of MASC&EC Glen Donelson, after the organization learned about Kaeppeler’s platform, they reached out to Miss America Organization in an attempt to bring a life-changing message to the students of Salem County.
“I think that it’s very important to emphasize mentoring because sometimes youngsters easily want to give up. It’s important for them to see images of success, that they can overcome any obstacles,” Donelson said.
He added that there is an extreme need for mentors and the difference they make to students, especially in the improvement of their GPAs, behavior and attendance.
Kaeppeler reflected over her earlier years and took time to remember some of her first mentors, Katie and Tony, who were her theater and dance teachers.
“They had a similar background and it was pivotal to understand who experiences things and that they are not alone in it. If you know you’re the one that knows you best, that’s what matters the most,” Kaeppeler said encouraging students during the assembly.
Vice President of MASC&EC Thomas Brown said that anyone can be a mentor.
“You don’t know who you are mentoring. Some kids just need someone to talk to,” Brown said.
In the closing of her visit to the middle school, Kaeppeler sang a song for the student body to say farewell.
“I performed this song for many, many years. It’s one I’ve done traveling through the entire country. It’s not only a song that I sing to students but I sing that song to myself,” she said.
Starting late Wednesday morning, Miss America attended a luncheon with local businesses, labor leaders, educators, law enforcement, potential business partners, and local elected officials at the PSEG Energy & Environmental Resource Center.
After speaking to youth in the county, Kaeppeler enjoyed a dinner at Pennsville Middle School with more than 150 attendees, a large majority of them were youth. Other attendees included mentors and protégés who participate in the mentoring program along with their families.
“It’s a great reward. The fact that she did not always want to be Miss America and then she realized she could change lives so it became more than just a pageant to her is inspiring. She was able to come and take a step back from her title and that makes it more real,” IB student Megan Sharp, 16, said.
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