Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oh Snap! Payton's Photoshoot Blog

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” –Dr. Seuss.  It was finally photoshoot day!  The pictures from this day will be something I will treasure always. I know I will look back fondly with gratitude and appreciation for these moments preserved in time.
A few weeks ago, I had the amazing experience of having a photo shoot done with my sister queens.  I was such a fun day of glamor and pampering.  I arrived to West 13 Salon early, excited to have Janelle Finseth work her magic with my hair and make-up.  I stayed true to my “over plan it” self and brought a car load of clothing options.  I was a little worried Janelle thought I would be staying indefinitely!
Janelle used an every other direction curling technique on my hair that did wonders for the volume of my hair.  I think photographer, Ludvik Herrera’s comment was, “Wow, that’s a lot of hair!” Next was make up!  Janelle did a beautiful job maintaining the balance between glamor and age appropriate softness.  I felt like a princess by the time Janelle was finished with me!
Siam was just finishing up with her photoshoot when I was done with hair and make-up. She looked picture perfect as the centerpiece of a tulle creation, compliments of our directors, Meg and Janelle. Siam asked me to go on Snapchat at take a couple cute pictures for her snap story and without hesitating, I did. I remember thinking how calm Ludvik Herrera was.  He is so professional and easy to work with.
My photoshoot began with a royal blue dress and some headshot poses.  My “music note dress” was next on the agenda.  Janelle Finseth was never far away and so quick to make necessary adjustments to hair and make-up.  When I turned sixteen in July, my mom had found a music note balloon.  We decided that would be a great photoshoot prop.  It was so fun to incorporate some props that highlighted my platform.
Next up was a pose that had me laying on scattered pages of music.  Ludvik got the ladder and I got the giggles!  This pose was shot from above, in a pink dress.  There was literally a team of people primping and adjusting, while Ludvig waited patiently on the top of a ladder.  I was thinking that this set of pictures is either going to be amazing or laughable!
The last part of the day was dedicated to group photos, of the sister queens.  We shot what we were told would be the cover of the book for next year’s pageant in January.  We also had the opportunity to wear our adorable GO RED shirts given to us by The American Heart Association, our very generous sponsor. Another sponsor, Jewelry by Meda, provided beautiful jewelry for us to wear.  The heart necklace was the perfect addition to my GO RED t-shirt. 
The room was filled with excitement and laughter from beginning to end.  This was such a fun opportunity to make some memories with my sister queens and our directors.  I feel so fortunate to have had this amazing experience.  Thank you does not seem like it is enough to express my appreciation to Ludvig Herrera, Janelle Finseth, The American Heart Association, Jewelry by Meda, Meg Pulkrabek and Janelle Steinberg.  I feel so blessed to work with each of you!     
 Yours in Harmony, Payton Hausauer Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Angelina's Photoshoot

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important. Capture the good times. And if things don't work out, just take another shot.”

Some events in life are memorable in the most unexpected ways. My pageant photoshoot was one of them. From before I even arrived at the the studio, I already had a crazy, little adventure. The directors of NDYM (my platform)  were kind enough to send me a backdrop and t-shirt for my shoot. The backdrop arrived days beforehand, but, the day of the shoot came, and my t-shirt still hadn’t arrived. Due to a printing error, the shirt had been overnighted to my house with the hopes it would get there before I left town for the shoot. When I got home after work and my shirt hadn't arrived,  I texted my husband “What do I do?!” because he is the best problem-solver I know. He said that I could drive around and look for the FedEx truck. So, that’s exactly what I did. I packed all my clothes, shoes and accessories quickly so I could get to looking right away. I threw open the trunk of my car, and because I was in a hurry, I didn’t notice that it didn’t go all the way up. So, when I let go of it to put my stuff in, it fell…and BAM! The trunk smacked me right in the forehead. I thought for sure I was bleeding. I touched my head, felt no blood and had a sense of relief. My head was throbbing, but I wasn’t gonna let that slow me down. I ran inside, grabbed some ice, and headed back to the car. With ice on my forehead, I drove around town looking for the big, brown truck. After driving for 40 minutes and flagging down two trucks, I miraculously located my shirt just in time! Although a large red bump was developing on my forehead, I felt like things were finally starting to turn around.

My husband came along with me to the shoot, and during the drive, he insisted that the bump on my head wasn’t that bad. When we arrived at the studio, my hair & makeup artist, Janelle, asked me how my day was. All I could do was let out a huge sigh and say, “It’s better now!” Thanks to the magic of airbrushed makeup, the bump on my head was no longer visible and I was ready to start the fun! At first, I was a little uncomfortable in front of the camera. I am by no means a “model” but I have done a few photo shoots before for pageants and dance teams. I remembered that posing is very similar dancing: having strength, confidence and knowing your best angles will help you perform better. Once I remembered those things, I felt more relaxed and my session went with ease. I am excited to see how the photos turned out! 

My T-Shirt and backdrop was a success. Special Thanks to my husband and Payton (Miss Teen ND Intl)  for being my props people! #TeamAwesome

After the individual session, I had a little time before all of us ND International Queens had our group session, so Jake and I decided to get some food. I was really craving Taco Bell, but I decided go a little “healthier” and get a pita from Pita Pit. After my snack, I headed back to the studio for round two. Taking pictures with Alexis, Payton, Siam and Wiljar was a blast! Ludvik Herrera, our photographer, helped us with creative ideas and even incorporated some of our own suggestions. My favorite part was the “Go Red” campaign shot. Just for fun, I threw up a heart with my hands and the directors and Ludvik actually liked it! I can’t wait to see the finished product!

During any down time, I had the opportunity to chat with the other queens and some of their parents. It was great to be all together in one place, especially since some of us live far from each other. Even though things took an unexpected turn earlier that day, the experience of the photoshoot was beyond worth it. It was great to connect with my sister queens and directors all in one place. That day was a reminder of how blessed I am to have Meg & Janelle as directors, and to have Janelle Finseth from West 13th Salon and Luvik Herrera Photography as sponsors. They were great to work with, always kind, and wiling to do whatever it takes to help us succeed. Special thanks to all of you! 

Oh, and I did finally get that Taco Bell I was craving ;D

Turning Moments Into Movements,

Angelina Yarbrough
Mrs. North Dakota International 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Photoshoot Day

Living and being a part of a selfie generation can be quite a blast! Capturing every moment from dawn to dusk, allowing your audience to have front row seats to who you are, what you do and even what you eat. I must say I have become quite attached to this. However, from selfie moments to photoshoot! This was completely different and I felt at the time like it was going to be a lot of pressure. Well, let’s just say there’s a first time for everything. What does one wear? How does one pose? What props should one bring? These were just the few out many questions I had running through my mind.
 Luckily there was Google and Pinterest to help me visualize just what I should do and bring to the photoshoot. While packing for the photoshoot (yes, I did say packing) I focused on color. Finding colors that complimented my skin tone and would stand out in pictures. Matching jewelry and picking out shoes. Later I wondered why I even did that because no one would even notice. I wanted to make it clear to myself that this was not a selfie moment. This was a photoshoot capturing a personal and up close look at me, North Dakota International Ambassador 2017. My concluded headshot will be seen by myself, my friends, family, coworkers, and even outsiders. I made sure to remember to have fun and show my best self.
While taking pictures in my crown and sash, it had dawned on me that this was only my third time wearing my formal gown. The first time was when my mum and I had set eyes on it at Saks Fifth Avenue and I had tried it on. I just knew that it was the dress from the moment I had tried it on. Second time was on pageant day gracefully being introduced as North Dakota International Ambassador 2017. Third time, was posing in front of the camera with Ludvik Herrera the photographer.
From Ludvik to Janelle and Meg, they were oh so very helpful in getting me to just relax and just find my inner model. I must say in moments when I was lost in posing I just quickly remembered photoshoots from Americas next top model. How Tyra Banks would give critiques, tell you to extenuate your curves, smile with your eyes and other random ideas. In the end, I was very content with my session and couldn’t wait to take more pictures with my sister queens.
They are all so beautiful and I was left in awe watching them work their photoshoot so well! It made me think “wow” we are truly a boiling pot of beauty. This was beauty pageant that brought us all together but our beauty is not what defines us. Looking back at photos of how each queen represented their platform, this showed me just what defines us. Our passion and our determination. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I say our pictures are worth a million. I cannot wait to see the final picture from Ludvik Herrera, and I hope you’ll like them just as much as I will too!
 Wiljar Ojuro 
North Dakota International Ambassador 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017


          The morning started of bright and early. As most of you know, I am a full time student at North Dakota State University pursuing a bachelors of science degree in nursing. With that being said I am a very BUSY Bee. I was scheduled for hair and make-up with Janelle at West 13th salon at 8:00 am, because between shooting I was going to attend class. But before I could head to the shoot, I needed to drop of a homework assignment at the nursing offices north of campus. So my morning was earlier than expected.

            Janelle started by styling my long, beautiful, and luscious Cinderella Hair Extensions. I had spent the previous nights looking over headshots that previous queens had, and what kind of “look” that they had captured. I decided that I was going to take advantage of my brand new long hair, and get some big voluminous curls. Janelle hit it right on the head with my hair style.

          Next, we were on to makeup. There is nothing that can really compare to sitting back and relaxing while someone else makes you look beautiful. Growing up I was on the dance team at my high school and they always did our make up, which was great. I was so ready for someone time to kick back and relax.

          Ludvik Herrera had began setting up the lightening, backdrops, and set. We began with several test shots to try out the lightening. Ludvik then asked me what kind of look I wanted to capture for my headshots. I had several photos on my iphone from previous queens, and Ludvik knew exactly how to coach me to be relaxed and most importantly enjoy my time shooting. By the time I knew it, my hour was up. Payton had shown up and her pampering was about to begin.

          From the salon, I rushed to campus to meet with my professor for a group meeting. I felt silly showing up with “pageant hair and makeup” and casual clothes. While I did get several questionable looks most of my classmates know I hold the Miss North Dakota International title, they soon shrugged it off. From the group meeting, I ran straight to campus where I had to complete a test for a research class in the nursing program. I showed up several minutes early so I could look over my notes before entering the exam.

          Shortly after the exam, I went back to the salon. When I entered, Angelina was still shooting and the entire pageant family was there. I was surprised and also very thankful to see every one. It had been since the pageant that all of us had been together. While some of the girls still had to eat, and Wiljar still had her hour session to shoot. I could finally kick back and relax. I was able to chat with everyone while they continued on with their business.

          From there we shot group photos together in our opening number outfits for the cover of the program for next year. It was crazy that we were already shooting for something to use in a little over 11 months away. We then shot in our Go Red for Women t-shirts that we will be using for advertisement for the American Heart Association.

          My favorite part of this pageant system is the family aspect. Since I had lost my mom at a young age, I began to look at other female figures in my life for motherly qualities. I can see so many qualities that my directors Meg and Janelle have that I will adopt into my lifestyle and as well as the other pageant moms have. I do not feel left out because my mom isn’t there like the rest of the girls’. But I feel like each and everyone of the pageant moms are so welcoming and warm and allow me to feel like I am one of their own. Which is truly special.

So a day that started out to make us queens feel special turned into a day of myself reflecting and feeling extra grateful for the women that are involved in my life.

Forever and always,

Miss North Dakota International 2017
Siam Simpfenderfer

Friday, March 10, 2017


My parents were the ones in my life who inspired me into choosing my platform. No matter where life seemed to bring them they always kept giving. For example, whenever my dad would go back home to Kenya, my parents would focus on bringing soccer balls, notebooks, pencils so that when they’d visit schools they could pass it out to students. This is something that has not come to a halt, they enjoy doing this because it brings smiles to young children’s faces.  Another person who inspired me to choose my platform is my aunt. I remember after church she would take my siblings and I to the grocery store to collect goods to bring to less fortunate families. 

      It made me realize just by simply helping others you can make a huge positive impact on their lives and yours. Growing up I was a very introverted individual but what helped me become more extroverted was when I volunteered at soup pantries on the weekends in high school. It didn't stop there, I began volunteering at nursing homes, hospitals, thrift stores and more. It was through these volunteering opportunities I was able to find my love for cooking! Through these volunteering opportunities I’ve learned that no matter who you are, we as individuals share one thing in common, that is our humanity. Individuals that I've come in contact with through volunteering had so many reasons to give up on life and struggled to find their place in this world.
​   I realized that by being there shows the individual that they are not alone and there are people in this world that do care. One thing that took me some time to learn was in order to be helpful to others, you have to not allow yourself to become weighed down by their pain too often. This can be tricky but you learn quickly that in order to be useful to anyone you must take care of yourself.

  Volunteering has perfected my people skills; I no longer feel nervous or scared when talking to strangers. It has helped in disciplining me to realize that to every action in life you make there are results. These results can either make us or break us but how we react to it and who is there to help us can determine just how journey will be.

    As North Dakota International Ambassador of 2017, I spend my days just wondering, planning, thinking with the thought of "what can I do next!" I want people to embrace giving a helping hand to those that need it the most. I want people to see that no matter how difficult your life maybe, there are always others going through far worse. No, this is not a comparison competition but it's  life! In life we need to be able to lend a helping hand. 
Wiljar Ojuro 
North Dakota International Ambassador 2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Alexis's Crowning Moment!

After months of preparation, the pageant weekend was finally here! I was so excited to represent my community of Bismarck, but a little bit nervous at the same time.
On the first day of the pageant weekend, we arrived at The Stage (the venue where the pageant was held.) I had fun meeting all of the other contestants. We did introductions and heard from some great, uplifting and encouraging speakers. After that, it was time to get to work!

We learned our opening number, our “home base” on stage, our evening gown and fun fashion routine, and our on-stage question routine. Then, it was time for all the Junior Miss Teen contestants to attend our etiquette tea.
The etiquette tea was sponsored by Mrs. Rachel Stone, Mrs. ND International 2006. She taught us all about proper etiquette at the table and we also ate some delicious food! The tea was so much fun!
After lunch, we got ready for our private interviews with the judges. Interview is my favorite part of the pageant competition! After interviews, we continued to practice until it was time to go home for the night. All the contestants needed our beauty sleep!
The final day of the pageant was so exciting! We ran through our routines again, and finally it was show time! Before going on stage, I had the opportunity to pray with Amanda Moreno, Miss International 2016, and also prayed with all the contestants before going on stage. This was so important to me, as it made me pause and remember that I was truly performing for an audience of ONE that night – Jesus. 

During the final show, I had a ton of fun modeling my fun fashion outfit, evening gown, and talking about my platform during the on-stage interview. Finally, it was time to announce the winner.
All of these girls were so amazing that I didn’t know how the judges would choose a winner. I wanted everyone to walk away with the crown! We all lined up and held hands. When the emcee said “Your new Junior Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017 is ALEXIS THOMPSON!”, my hands flew up to my mouth like it was on fire! I couldn’t believe that it was MY name announced! My dream had come true!

From the stage, I could see my family hooting and hollering (and crying happy tears!) I could hardly believe that I had won!
The rest of the night was a whirlwind! We enjoyed a lovely reception after the pageant and took a lot of photographs.

One month has gone by after being crowned, and I still sometimes can’t believe that I have been given this amazing opportunity! I am so grateful and feel truly blessed. I have been busy volunteering and promoting my platform “Choose Happiness” as well as supporting and advocating for the American Heart Association.
I am proud to be Junior Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017 and I look forward to all the wonderful things yet to come during my reign!
Alexis Thompson
Junior Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

North Dakota Youth Ministries

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” is what my youth pastor would say to remind us teenagers that who we chose to surround ourselves with would play a huge role in who we became. Although it’s been years since I was in youth group, I will never forget the wisdom, advice and lessons I learned. As a teenager, I often thought the most important things in life were my reputation, my friends, and who my current boyfriend was. The positive influence from my pastors and mentors helped me discover that there is more to life than that. They helped me understand the value in living for a greater purpose. 

I first became a youth leader when I was in high school. After I graduated, I continued my involvement by leading weekly studies, taking students out for coffee and even starting a youth dance team. Nobody told me to get involved, it was something I was passionate about and came naturally to me. My husband and I now serve as the youth pastors of our church. There’s something amazing about finding a partner who cares about the next generation as much as you do. Since 2014, Jake and I have been leading Relentless Student Ministries together, and it’s been an incredible journey. 

Through our position as youth pastors, we got connected with North Dakota Youth Ministries (NDYM), the student department of the North Dakota Assemblies of God. This organization invests in the lives of junior high and high school students around the state. Pastors, leaders and volunteers of NDYM work to impact youth on a daily basis. They also organize annual events to create a positive and healthy community for students and position them to have an encounter with God. The mission statement is “Turning Moments into Movements” because a single moment of impact can become a movement that will effect generations to come. 

NDYM is my platform because I believe that young people need healthy, positive mentorship in their lives. As Mrs. North Dakota International, I want to educate people on the importance of investing in our youth and utilize my influence to impact any students the crown leads me to. Remember, youth are not just the generation of tomorrow, they matter today and are worth investing in.

A recent study showed that teenagers spend an average of 9 hours a day consuming media, which can be a scary thought, considering all the ways media impacts our society. Whether it’s diving into the details of other people’s lives on Instagram, accessing endless information on the internet, or the constant distraction of applications, games, and shows on their phones, teenagers have a lot vying for their attention. With technology at the forefront of youth culture, there is a lot of texting and not a lot of talking. There’s a lot of snap-chatting, but not a lot of genuine relationships with friends. Now, more than ever, youth need people to pull them away from the screen and encourage them to enjoy life. Young women need confident women to remind them how beautiful they are because they spend hours a day scrolling through highlight reels of people’s lives and are feeling insecure. Young men need mature men to remind them that although the media tries to label them as dumb guys who only think about sex, they don’t have to fall for that trap. As adults, we can sit back, blame social media, technology or Netflix for the problems that youth are facing, or we can step up and be a voice of positivity in a world of negative influence. 

I am a living testimony that mentorship yields positive results. I have great parents, but when I was in high school, they were not the first people I wanted to open up to. However, my peers didn’t always have the right tools to guide me through my problems. I needed older and wiser influences to reach out to me during my teenage years. I needed people who cared enough to be part of my life, even if I didn’t always like their involvement. I eventually realized that they understood life differently and I learned to listen to and appreciate them. Ultimately, their friendship shaped my future and I am forever grateful for that. 

No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has something to offer that can impact the next generation. Take your niece out for coffee. Bake brownies for your church’s youth group and attach and encouraging note. Or, volunteer a couple summer days at the local community center to get to know the youth in your town. A simple act of kindness can mean the world to a teenager. In the words of president Jimmy Carter, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . my faith demands that I do whatever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” So, let’s make a difference together.


Click here >>> to learn more about North Dakota Youth Ministries.
Mrs. North Dakota International 2017
Angelina Yarbrough

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's Okay to Not Be Okay

When asked to give three facts about yourself you want to give three say fun, unique, and interesting facts. Most people would would have typical responses that fall along the lines of, “I have been to 9 countries, have never broken a bone, and I love to read.” My responses are, “I have never had a Dairy Queen Blizzard, I am a dual citizen, and my mom took her own life.”
Most people feel uncomfortable once my last fact is said and given a second to sink in. The majority of the group usually throw out a couple, “oh my gosh, I’m sorry,” or they try to change the subject without acknowledgement. They begin to look at me like I am sad, broken, or a victim which I am no where near. My goal is to rid the negative stigma that surrounds suicide. I want to be able to spin a negative life experience and turn it into a positive, because every 40 seconds we lose someone to suicide world-wide.

My entire life story starts several years before I was born. My dad, once graduated from college, got a job which he traveled the world on a boat. He worked in many countries for several months at a time. He eventually found home in Phitsanulok, Thailand. Where he eventually met and fell in love with my mother. They were married and several years later expecting a baby girl. Six months after I was born, we moved to the United States where my dad was born and raised. My mother was very strong, independent, and stubborn. Once in the country she was determined to become fluent in the English language, gain citizenship, and find a job to occupy her time. In less then 3 years she did all that.

The memories I have of my mom revolve around making her ‘famous’ eggrolls for friends and family, always being the mom that would take my friends and I to the waterpark or playground, loved by the neighborhood, and always being the loudest in the room. For being such a petite woman this lady had a set of lungs on her. Although, I have great memories of my mother when I was young I hold no happy memories of my mom and dad together.

You see, although my mom was very independent she soon grew homesick for Thailand. She made a trip home when I was the age of two, and my grandmother knew that is truly where she wanted and needed to me. My mom and dad began to fight and eventually on the verge of a divorce. The memories I hold as a young child of my parents together only revolve around the yelling, bickering, and moving from house to house. Which I can reflect on now and implement on my life and relationships.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Most people tell me, “oh you were too young to remember, it is all from what you were told.” That is far from the case, with such a dramatic and almost traumatic news to a five-year-old it sticks with you like a mosquito that will never leave you alone.
With having parents that are on their way to divorce most children understand the thing of taking “sides.” Sunday morning was a huge morning for me. Why?  This particular Sunday every child that was about to start their kindergarten received their very first bible. This purple bible filled with cartoon versions of bible stories meant we finally made it big time in Sunday school. I was about to be a cool kid. After the church service I wanted to get out of my dress and into my overalls and head to my cousins that lived several miles out of town. My mom had stopped into my grandparent’s and tried sitting me down. But for a five-year-old ready to hang out with her friends there was no way this lady was going to get me to sit still. I remember she had asked me several questions about my morning, and her wanting to see my new purple bible. By this point I remember being annoyed and just ready to see my friends. Little did I know that this would be my last time seeing my mom. I sat on the counter as she hugged me and told me her final words.
I had spent the night at a cousin’s house several miles out of town. We had been running around playing basketball when I saw my dad’s white truck pull up with my dad in the driver seat and my grandpa in the passenger seat. I immediately avoided the fact that I had to leave my friends until I heard my dad’s booming voice say, “Siam, it’s time to go.” I hurried to the truck and hopped right in. I shimmied my way between my grandpa and dad in the front seat. I remember that ride briefly but I remember it being full of silence. We arrived at my grandparent’s home and walked into the living room where my entire family sat, but one person was missing.
I don’t quite remember who was the one to say the words but the exact words were, “Siam, Jesus came down and told mom that it was time for her to go.” As a young child I didn’t quite understand. But the way I pictured this all going down was Jesus holding my mom in the middle of the living room telling her it was time to come home. I remember not being sad, because I had read in my purple bible that it was okay to go home with Jesus. Shortly after receiving the news I went and watched cartoons when my grandpa came into explain in further detail that my mom was gone, and she was gone for good.

It wasn’t until I was eleven or twelve that I found out the real reason my mother had passed. At that time, I was filled with anger. How could a woman leave her children? How could a mom make a choice between her own life and her children? It was a hard pill to swallow. It took several years for me to understand the depth of this experience. But once I was able to realize that my personal experiences can prevent others from losing a loved one, my heart swelled full of happiness and I knew there was a purpose for my life. I wasn’t going to sit and dwell on it and be collateral damage, I was going to be collateral beauty and pull the positives out of life.
That is when my personal platform of, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay became. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay is letting others know it is okay to ask for help and offer support to those affected by suicide. You are not alone. I would like others to recognized the warning signs and preventative care for suicide. Because for every 5 that have attempted suicide, 4 have given clear warning signs.

Forever and Always,

Miss North Dakota International 2017
Siam Simpfenderfer

Monday, March 6, 2017

Music Education, Hitting All the Right Notes

Thank you for taking the time to read about my platform!  My platform Music Education- Hitting All the Right Notes, is my everyday passion.  Music is one of the most universal, profoundly human experiences that I know. I think it would be difficult to find someone whose life has not been touched in some way, by music. My mission is to educate others about the benefits of music education and highlight the correlation between music study and higher academic achievement. I believe that quality music education can “hit all the right notes” for countless students. 
I chose my platform for a few main reasons.  First, music is what I love.  It is what inspires me in my everyday life. Next, I have had outstanding music teachers who have had a profound impact my life. Finally, I believe that music in our schools is often undervalued.  Music programs are often cut, when the financing is not there. I want to challenge people to see music education not only as something that enriches our lives, but improves the skills necessary for school success.
Over the past decade, there has been a lot of talk about educational reform. The goal has been to make students in our country more successful.  I believe that quality music education with the proper funding and support can play a big part in this reform. Research shows that students who study music score about 20% higher on standardized tests in reading and math.  They have better skill sets in almost every academic area.  Music students manage anxiety better and feel more at connected at school.  The benefits range from language development to problem solving. 
I think it is very important to support the Music Educators of North Dakota (NDME) and other organizations who support community and school based music education.  Other organizations I hope I have the chance to work with are National Association for Music Educators, American Coral Directors Association. I believe that teachers are the heart of our education system.  It is my hope to continue to be a voice for quality music education on the local, state and national level.
 I love the quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Over the past few years, I have become increasingly involved in music advocacy.  I have served on student government, as choir class president and representative for two years.  Last year, I was asked to be a Teacher’s Assistant for Women’s Choir, at my school.  I spend my free period every day, helping with this choir. This has been a priceless opportunity for me to influence young women in my school and share my passion for music education.
As a North Dakota International State Title Holder, my intention is to support the North Dakota Music Educators and their agenda.  I hope to be an advocate for quality music education in my community and state.  I want to raise awareness about the research that makes an incredible case for music education. Finally, I will highlight the need for quality music opportunities in rural and lower income areas. Every student has the right to the advantages, a quality music program provides.
Yours in Harmony,
Payton Hausauer, Miss Teen North Dakota International 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wiljar's Crowning Moment

Crowning Moment
When I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to be a princess! I think just about every little girl does at some point. To actually be 23 with a crown feels so surreal. I remember Saturday, the day before crowning, I was already made aware that I had won my title as North Dakota International Ambassador 2017. When I was told this, I couldn’t believe it!  I had put off this pageant for years and to finally push myself and say no more to excuses was the best thing I could have ever done. Sunday evening of January 15th, 2016 was suspenseful, it was the moment everyone had worked so hard for. It was through being crowned, I realized that everyone has a plan in life but God has an even greater plan for us. To see such a stunning jeweled crown being placed on my head was an honor. I couldn’t help myself but to think “Man, this crown is huge!” 
Though this crown that I was awarded is indeed beautiful and I take pride in wearing it every moment now. As a wise beautiful individual once told me, “do not let the crown wear you, you wear the crown.” It’s because of this I am learning how to approach people and help them focus on me as a whole and not just only based by what’s on top of my head.
 I have a special place for my crown and whenever I look at it I always seem to smile, for I remember that crowning moment as the beginning of a new chapter of my life. I couldn’t have done this without the support and guidance of Janelle, Meg, my family and my friends. It’s now been a month now since being crowned and I still remember like it was just yesterday. From attending fitness workshops to walking/stage presence workshops all of it paid off. Although it took me almost four years to finally jump in and do this, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Despite me knowing in advance that I was awarded the crown I didn’t let that stop my focus. I remember feeling so nervous for answering my onstage questions, I kept repeating to myself! It was through this experience that I made new friends that I still keep in contact with till this very day.
 My crowning moment changed everything for the better. Life was good before the crown but now life is even better with it! I get to converse and meet new people from all walks of life to share my platform, help make a difference and represent the international pageant. At times I am often asked while doing appearances if my crown is heavy. My response now is that it feels that way after a while but it helps me stand tall, be more confident and go about my passion. So heavily worth it!
Wiljar Ojuro, North Dakota International Ambassador 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Angelina's Crowning Moment

My Crowning Moment

It has been over 2,629,746 seconds since I was crowned Mrs. North Dakota International. {you can thank Siri for that information} Time has always been an interesting concept to me. Although time never changes its pace, it can feel so different depending on the moment. It can fly by quick or move slow, and this can be a good or bad thing. When I am hungry and waiting for food to be ready, time creeping by is certainly not a good thing, but when something you’ve worked so hard for becomes a dream come true, time slowing down is exactly what you need. 

Just before my crowning moment, I remember closing my eyes after the first runner up was called. The adrenaline was rushing through my body. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. All I knew was that I felt so aware of everything around me. The screams from the audience, the warm, shaking hands of the women on either side of me as we squeezed each others’ palms for stabilization. I heard the words, “And your 2017 Mrs. North Dakota International is…”  And then there was the pause. That dreaded pause-for-dramatic-effect that the emcee does every time - that part is just agonizing! And then it happened. I heard the “A” sound and made sure to pay careful attention to the rest of the words coming out of his mouth. Even after hearing “Angelina” I waited to hear my last name, you know, just in case there was another Angelina in the competition that I didn’t know about. Even after hearing “Angelina Yarbrough” I paused and looked up to make sure it was really me.

Then, it hit me like large tidal wave that takes over your entire body. That is how I felt emotionally, but I tried to keep it together because I was in heels and, well…  hundreds of people were watching me. I could feel the crown being place on my head and I didn’t even have to turn around to know that my husband was smiling his face off as he placed it on me. I could just feel his excitement. One of the stage managers told me that they wished they could have taken a video of my husband’s reaction. Apparently, he instantly bent over, gave a double fist pump and yelled “YES!” He told me that his stomach was in knots as he stood back stage waiting in anticipation with the other husbands. This whole process might have been more taxing on my husband’s nerves than my own. Oh, the things he does for me! 

I crouched down to allow the former Mrs. North Dakota & my husband to figure out how they were going to secure the crown to my head. I could not stop smiling - I was so excited! What is funny, though, is that every single photo I've seen of this moment shows my eyes closed. I don’t quite remember things as clearly, the whole thing started to become a blur at that point. But after looking at the photos, I know that my eyes were closed for at least two reasons. Number one, I was trying to keep my tears of joy under some control (as to not totally ruin my makeup), and, number two, I took a moment to thank God - he granted me my heart’s desire and deserves the glory for it. 

The mission statement of my platform is "Turning Moments into Movements”. I believe that, for all people, the most impactful things in life begin with moments. I believe in thanking God for good moments because those are treasures that our spirits were meant to remember. So here’s to my crowning moment - a moment of celebration. The one moment it was about me. And now, it’s no longer about me, but about serving others and making a difference in my community and state. I will do so much more than simply remember this moment - I will allow this moment to propel me forward to accomplish what I set out to do - to live for something greater than myself. 

Until Next Time,

Angelina Yarbrough
Mrs. North Dakota International 2017
Turning Moments Into Movements