“thank I am exhausted.  It seems like I have not stopped all day.  The day has been so long I honestly do not know if I have even sat down for minute.  It is now 4:00 PM and I just finished cleaning up everything from lunch, there is a load of clothes in the washer, one coming out of the dryer, and another I still have to do.  As I am putting away the dishes from lunch I know in the next half hour I have to start dinner.  I cannot forget to give her, her medications.  I made a list when I woke up at 5:00 AM for the day and I have not crossed a quarter of it off.  I am overwhelmed…but I am blessed.  I am doing the work God called me to do as a caregiver for my loved one.  And all of this trivial chores and lists are secondary to the fact I am present for and fostering quality of life for someone dear to me.  Yet, I wonder, does anyone know what my life is like.”
On June 22, 2018 Caroline Credle was crowned Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen.  A day later I joined her in statewide service and began to learn more and more about this remarkable young woman with whom I would share my year of service.  Caroline and I both have very unusual social impact initiatives; yet very timely and necessary.  While I focus on financial literacy, her “Care Baskets for Caregivers” initiative recognizes the isolation and strain many Americans face daily as the primary caregiver for a disabled or aging loved one.  Interestingly enough, they go hand in hand as frequently fulltime caregivers battle financial strain due to their calling to care. 

Having participated in the caregiving role for an aunt with Down Syndrome, Caroline knows at a very young age the hardship and reward of being a caregiver.  Her initiative to show appreciation and reward those caring for loved ones is much needed in today’s world with the movement of mainstreaming and the desire to provide in-home care versus what would historically be known as institutions.  Perhaps those experiences have made her what I refer to as an “old soul;” someone who relates, empathizes, and conducts herself like a grown woman embodying the wisdom of age far greater than her own.  This could also be the result of a very strong upbringing in a home with intentional parents. 

Caroline is the 17-year-old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Cliff & Sylvia Credle of Raleigh, North Carolina.  The youngest of three children, Caroline is a senior at North Carolina School of the Arts pursuing advanced training in ballet while completing her high school diploma.  She has two older brothers both enrolled in the Naval Academy.  Caroline is an “A” honor roll student, has held two roles in the North Carolina School of the Arts production of “The Nutcracker,” and has received numerous dance scholarships already including a full-tuition scholarship to the American Ballet’s Summer Intensive Program.  She aspires to continue dancing post her year of service through a degree in dance and career as a professional ballerina.  It goes without saying her empathy for caregivers will be a lifelong engagement for Caroline who has already accomplished tremendous feats with her relevant and necessary social impact initiative.

It was such a privilege to be in Orlando with Caroline as she competed for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Title.  I often speak about the importance of carrying with you the dreams of the young women you shared the local and state stages with during your competition.  Clearly, Caroline did just that as she was chosen by her Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen class as Miss Congeniality.  While being the national titleholder is a tremendous honor, I have to place equal value on being the candidate your local peers selecting for this most prestigious award.  It reminds me of a quote that is very suiting to Caroline’s character, “Seek not to be well-known, seek instead to be worth knowing.”

From her very relevant social impact initiative, to her commanding presence as a beautiful “old soul,” to her overall drive and motivation for a fulfilled life, I am deeply honored to share the North Carolina footprint with Caroline Credle, Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen.  I cannot wait to see you in Atlantic City in just a few days! Thank you for being here to support me and for our relationship of support for one another.  You are a caregiver in ways you do not even realize.  You have the spirit, motivation, and heart of a fighter…never change!