Enrolling in the Miss America Organization placed me in a very special mentorship role holding a local title; having an Outstanding Teen.  My experiences with Outstanding Teen sister titleholders have been nothing short of extraordinary.

Mentoring young women is a key component of the Miss America Organization’s titleholders.  Girl power..Empowered women…united sisterhood…these are elemental of the Miss America Organization.  The 2.0 rebranding partnered with #MeToo is the idea that women need to be strong and united presenting a front of equality among the sexes.   The Outstanding Teen Program nationwide allows young women like me to be pivotal in instilling strength in youth as well as their peers and elders.  While this has always been my goal as a mentor to my teenage sister titleholders, what I found most interesting are the life lessons they have taught me.

Over three years of being a local titleholder I shared a service footprint with three very special teenagers. Each of them hold a very special place in my heart and are still very much a part of my life.  And, each one taught me something about life.  Perhaps mentorship is a two way street.  I would like to thank these special sisters and share with you what life lesson each taught me.


Michaela Madison Emory – Miss Western Piedmont (Outstanding) Teen 2016 [SC MAO]

A 2018 honors graduate of Gettys D. Broome High School, Michaela is the 18-year-old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Mike and Angie Emory of Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Michaela is presently a freshman at Limestone College where she is pursuing a degree in elementary education in the hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher.  As in high school, Michaela is member of the cheer squad and student government.  Michaela has completed over 600 hours of volunteer service and was a Quality of Life Top Five Finalist at the Miss South Carolina (Outstanding) Teen Competition for her work organizing the Spartanburg County Day of Service.  Michaela has won many other awards for service including the Presidential Service Award and both bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  She is an accomplished pianist and has held many other titles including her high school title and a state title in a major pageant system where she won overall interview and place 1stRunner-Up at the national competition.


My life lesson…

In the mock interview process for the state competition I was present for one of Michaela’s interviews.  She was asked, “Is it appropriate for a titleholder in the Miss America Organization to speak about her faith?”  Her response was so powerful for a young woman of 15 it is forever etched in my mind. “To be ashamed to speak one’s faith is not to have any.”  These words, perhaps the purest and most profound I have ever heard, changed my life forever. Like Michaela, I am a faithful young woman, a creation of God, and believer in His will.  How amazing a teenager can make a statement so bold, so clear, and so telling that mere words changed me forever.  Michaela, thank you for speaking your faith, opening the door for me to speak mine, and for shining God’s light with your being.  Watching you grow up over the past three years has been an honor.  I will always be grateful He joined us.


Delaney Renee McKaughn – Miss Randolph County’s Outstanding Teen 2017

 A senior honors student at Asheboro High School with a 4.0 grade point average where she is Student Body President, Delaney is the 17-year-old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Mark & Shannon McKaughn of Asheboro, North Carolina. Delaney is a published author, dance team captai, founded her school’s service organization, and is an officer in the school band.  She hopes to work for a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital as a staff Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in youth amputations.  Delaney is also a scholar athlete as a member of the varsity soccer team and an avid volunteer in her hometown and across North Carolina’s Triad area.  Delaney has received many preliminary talent and eveningwear/onstage question awards through competition in the local level of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Competition and is presently Miss Greensboro’s Outstanding Teen.

My life lesson…

Serving with Delaney for a year I learned a great deal about how healthy balances in life make healthy individuals.  A very involved teenager with so many scholastic and volunteer activities as well as being a competitive dancer, Delaney’s maturity in juggling a full load of meaningful duties with dutiful purpose and adequate recreation taught me prioritization and, overall, balance in life.  At only 16-years-of-age Delaney had a mastery of time management where she managed to balance all the things she wanted in related to goals with making time to relax, laugh, enjoy life, and relax with friends.  As a college senior, it was very interesting to learn this balance from a high school sophomore.  Delaney lives a healthy, balanced, and positive life.  She brought and taught balance to me as well.  I am eternally grateful for the year we served together and bond we built not only as titleholders, but as true friends.


Meghan Elizabeth Gadsden – Miss Metrolina’s Outstanding Teen 2018

Having chosen the academic path of homeschooling, Meghan is presently a high school sophomore.  She is the 15-year-old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Martin and Portia Fauntleroy of Marvin, North Carolina.  Meghan is a competitive dancer who, though she has studied many genres of dance, specializes in tap; specifically rhythm tap dance.  Meghan hopes to obtain a Bachelor of fine Arts Degree in Dance Performance & Pedagogy and have a career as a professional dancer as well as being a renowned instructor and choreographer.  At 15 Meghan has developed her own 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, “Second Chance to Dance,” worked as Community Ambassador for Ivivva by Lululemon, received the Doug Caldwell Passion for Dance Scholarship, and was awarded a Non-Finalist Talent award at the Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen Competition.  Meghan is an honor student as well and before switching to homeschooling was a student government officer.


My life Lesson…

“There are things I know I need to do differently and I am coming back ready.”  Resilience and perseverance are two things I learned from Meghan’s mature and positive attitude and outlook.  These are the words this 15-year-old young woman said to me just minutes after exiting the stage of Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen this summer.  When most young women her age were disappointed, angry, or deflated, Meghan came out of an experience she thoroughly embraced and enjoyed with the most positive outlook and hope for the future.  Her will and tenacity blew me away during her year of service and again, when the state competition concluded, that same will to go on and tenacity to achieve shone through.  Adapting to life as Miss North Carolina, when I had to push myself, I remembered Meghan’s words exiting the stage and knew if my sister teen could keep on pushing, so could I.  Thank you, Meghan, for teaching me to push harder and never give up.


Through three years of involvement as a local titleholder, I learned some of the most important lessons in my life from the teenage sister titleholders I was to mentor.  The brilliance in connectivity between the Miss America Organization and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen really blurs the line of senior mentorship.  As it turns out, mentorship runs a parallel street.  Michaela, Delaney, and Meghan…thank you for being my teens.  The lessons you three have taught me are knowledge I will carry forever and will certainly serve me well this week as I compete to be your Miss America.  I love you all!