The Fifth and Final Go Around

And just like that, my six year journey within the Miss America Organization has flown by.

Six?  Why six you say?  I’ve been competing in the MAO on a local level since I was 17-years-old beginning with Miss Wisconsin Rapids my senior year of high school.  I competed in an open that year as well, Miss Fox River Valley in Appleton and did not win.  So it wasn’t until (technically) my second year of involvement and third pageant (perseverance is everything ladies) that I won the title of Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012.  Since that pivotal moment in my life when I welcomed a motley crew of Oktoberfest friends and family members into my life, I’ve served as Miss Seven Rivers 2014, Miss Madison Capital-City 2015, and am currently the reigning Miss Harbor Cities 2016.  As I sit here and reflect on my experiences I can’t help but feel extremely humbled and blessed beyond measure.

This organization has brought so many things into my life that I never truly knew I needed.  A strong sisterhood of friendships with women who are just as determined, passionate, and dedicated as I am; a support system in the community that lifted me up just as I was hitting a breaking point; the soft skill sets needed to succeed with any dream I set out to achieve; and a larger pageant family that continues to support all of my endeavors whether it’s within the MAO or in life.pageant-bannerAfter finishing as a Top 11 Semi-Finalist consecutively during my first three years competing at Miss Wisconsin, this past June, I had the honor of placing as 4th Runner-Up to Miss Wisconsin 2016, Courtney Pelot.  I also won Overall Interview and obtained the Miracle Maker Award for raising $1,1000 for Children’s Miracle Network (the Miss America Organization’s national platform).  This year, I have one more chance to compete for a local title, with the opportunity to continue to spread my message of, “Let’s Talk: #SkillSets4Success” while impacting the lives of others in that community I’m serving and across the state as of done the past four years.  Not to mention, winning a local title would grant me one, fifth and final time chance to compete on the Miss Wisconsin stage in Oshkosh before I “age out” of the program (within the Miss America Organization regulations, women age out at the age of 24).img_0783I would say that it’s my “dream job” to become Miss Wisconsin, but in reality I think that phrase is extremely cliche and overused…if we’re being honest.  The truth is, it’s the experiences I’ve had within the Miss America Organization, relationships I’ve formed, tribulations I’ve encountered, and support I’ve received through this very program that led me to my dream job of working in broadcast as a reporter and to this day my dream job is still to work as a sideline reporter for ESPN.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denoting the job of Miss Wisconsin at all.  The position is one I am extremely passionate about and wish to obtain very badly.  However, it’s important to see the bigger picture in life and realize that it’s because of the Miss America Organization that I am on the career path I am today.  On a daily basis for the past year, I have the opportunity to go out into the community, foster relationships, experience new things, and impact others’ lives by sharing their stories.  Being a titleholder has helped me fine tune how to uphold a positive self-image, refined my public speaking, boosted my confidence, and helped me gain a newfound level of comfort walking into an environment and/or arriving at an event where I know no one and introducing myself-these are all necessary skill sets of a reporter and carry over to the job of any titleholder; especially Miss Wisconsin.

While all of these experiences that have helped me develop certain skill sets needed to succeed are very important, they’re not the real reason this program has, does, and always will hold a special place in my heart even after my days as a titleholder subside.  Rather, the impact a woman can make with the voice and talents God has provided her with, the people she can help, and the positive messages she can share THAT is why this program is so important.  I’ve had countless people who I’ve consider friends, some I love dearly tell me within the past year that they don’t see the worth in this organization, that I have a full-time job, why continue to compete?  To that, I laugh and although frustration usually follows, I continue to stress to them that I would not be where I am today in my career and I wouldn’t be the determined, community driven, passionate, sometimes stubborn, and slightly feisty 23-year-old I am without the influence of this program and for that I am forever thankful.pageantYOU can help me as I prepare for the fifth and final go around by making a monetary donation to my Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals account.  Each woman planning to compete in a local pageant must raise a minimum of $100, but heck, the sky is the limit and I need your help!  A small contribution will help local kids and their families in a time of stress, financial burden, and sadness to help relieve some of the pain they’re feeling.  An amount is greatly appreciated and all donations are tax deductible.  THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for continuing to support this crazy, beautiful journey I am on—this is for you.

DONATE HERE: http://www.missamericaforkids.org/Donate/TiannaVanderhei 

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