Nationals went by in a flash!

Hello Again!
            Wow, do I have a lot to tell you all! As most of you know, I have recently returned from Nationals in Jacksonville, FL and it was nothing short of amazing!
            We started our journey a few days early so that we could attend Mrs. North Dakota International, Ashley Klinger, preliminary competition and her finals. There is nothing better than having a large cheer team supporting you far away from home! Meghanne, Miss Teen North Dakota International and I came with two things those nights, our screaming lungs for cheering, and tissues for our overwhelming pride in Ashley. Finals night they announced the top 15 contestants while Meghanne and I were clutching hands waiting to hear Ashley’s name-“Mrs. North Dakota International- Ashley Klinger!” Tears of joy streamed our faces! It was such an exciting time and great way to start our competition week with seeing Ashley representing her platform and state so well on a international stage because we knew we would be there in just one more week!
            By being there a few days early we were able to meet other Miss and Teen contestants as they arrived and get to know them before our busy schedules took over!

            Orientation came Monday afternoon where we were able to meet everyone, meet the national sponsors, and discuss the week ahead. Every time I thought I had met all of the Miss contestants, I would see a new group of ladies I hadn’t introduced myself too!

            Tuesday was our busiest day where we toured Jacksonville! We first stopped at Sweet Pete’s Candy store were we got to make our own suckers! It was so cool to see the candy being created and to see everyone’s unique sucker shapes they chose to mold! We then continued to walk downtown to a few of the historical buildings. After lunch we gathered with the American Heart Association (our national platform) and learned compression CPR. CPR continually changes and its always great to learn the newest techniques! After CPR we made blankets for children at the hospital! It doesn’t end there! Then everyone got on buses and we headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium where we toured their home and got to see new updates to the building that hadn't been released to the public yet! Told you it was a busy day!

            That evening we had a Gala, where we all got to dress in gowns and eat a fabulous dinner. That evening we got to hear the testimony of Eddie Peterson. Eddie had a great inspirational story that left many girls in tears and inspired to keep striving! It was truly a blessing and God-felt night.

Wednesday was an exciting day where the all the Miss contestants went to the PACE center for girls. The Pace center is a place where girls and young women are able to build their education, receive counseling, and building their bridge to a success future in society. How cool is that!? It was a great time doing different activities with the girls and learning about them and who they are. It was also a humbling time to reflect my personal mission in the world and remember Gods leading hand. I absolutely loved this trip!
That night we had our first rehearsals! Every girl had a large bag with about 4 pairs of shoes and snacks to keep them going! It was so fun to finally learn our opening number routine and to cheer for our friends on stage! The opening number song was “Me too” by Meghanne Trainer and the song REALLY stuck with us! We all loved the sassy, peppiness in the song which made it even more fun!
Wow Thursday Morning came fast! It was time for my private interview with the judges- this portion of the competition was worth 40% of my score. Each judge is very different so you just have to be prepared for anything! The judges were given my paperwork that I submitted about myself and my platform about a month before nationals where they were able to really examine my work and who I am. The international system is well known for their platform service so I was asked mostly about my service in my platform. Building Stronger Communities through service is a very large platform as service can be done in so many different ways! That’s what makes my platform so great and unique! Like I had said, each interview with the judges was very different- I had some that were fun and exciting and a few others that were more business-like. The important part was that I stayed calm, stayed true to myself, and educated others about the importance of building stronger communities! When I left the interview room I had my directors anxiously waiting to hear all about it and I was very excited to tell them!
In the evening, the Miss contestants got dressed up to attend the Miss-Teen Preliminaries night where I got to watch Meghanne just rock that stage! It was a blast seeing all the dresses and cheering with other “big sister” queens for their “little sisters!” Meghanne sure knows how to make me proud!!
Friday was an ENTIRE day of rehearsals! We had lots to learn in just a little bit of time before our big night of Prelims! Again we all had a large bag full of shoes and snacks to keep us going strong throughout the day! Oh, and coffee too! It was just as fun as the first night of rehearsals as we were all getting pretty anxious for the upcoming show!
Finally it was time to get on our opening number dresses and we were ready to show off everything we had been working hard on over the past few months! The show ended in the blink of an eye and I had so much fun being on stage! I prayed before the show that God would shine through me that night and by the end of the show, I felt content and at ease knowing God was with me the entire show.
Saturday morning had come quickly and was another day of rehearsals for finals night! That night would be the night we would learn who made the top 10 in both the Teen and Miss categories—pretty exciting huh?
Before we knew it, we were back in our opening number dresses. Everyone was a bit nervous because we all had worked so hard to be there that night but we knew that only 10 names would be called. Don’t let that fool you though! Everyone was still laughing and being encouraging, helping zip dresses and taking LOTS of fun pictures! This was our LAST night together!! It came way too soon!
Everyone was on stage while our hearts were pounding like drums out of our chests as we waited for the Teen top 10 to be called. They began announcing and suddenly, “Meghanne Quam, Miss Teen North Dakota” was called and I instantly had tears of joy down my face as I watched all of Meghanne's hard work pay off and her dreams unfold! The contestants around me hugged and congratulated me as I was having a “big sister” moment!
Soon they began the Miss top 10. My heart was still pounding loud and fast as before. One by one the top 10 were announced and I was not one of them but the girls’ names that were announced were all very deserving of their spot and had also worked very hard to get there! Some would think that I should have been disappointed but that was honestly the complete opposite of how I was feeling! I prayed long and hard that week. My goal was to allow God to shine through me and share my platform. I believe I did just that and stayed true to myself! I felt like a winner! I made so many friends and had a once in a lifetime experience—how could I be upset!? Sure, making top ten would’ve been great, but God had another plan and part of that plan was to be back stage helping Meghanne stay focused and cheering for my friends!
At the end of the night, my heart was still full and overjoyed as my best friend had won the international title! I am so proud of our new queen, Amanda Moreno who truly depicts the perfect queen! I got to know Amanda pretty well over our week together and I can say that we never had to say good bye because that week was just the beginning of our new and growing friendship! <3

In the end, I got to spend a week with some of the most beautiful, heart-felt women I have ever met! Though the schedule was booked like you have read, it was full of laughs, pictures, stories, and personal growth. I can honestly say that this was one of the best weeks of my life. I made friends for a lifetime and got to do things I have only ever dreamed of doing! Thank you to everyone who has made this experience possible and supported me along the way! And thank you to Mary and Mel Richardson for allowing me to be a part of their one-of-a-kind pageant! Last but not least, thank you to the class of 2016 as you all have made a home in my heart! Love you all! <3

Much love, Miss North Dakota International 2016.

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