Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Since Saturday night when the crown hit my head I have been at a loss for words. I am beside myself with honor at the opportunity I have been given. From the moment I realized that I was the last one standing, all I could think was that the clock starts now. I have one year to accomplish everything I have wanted to do under a crown. And so, we are off.
I may never find words strong enough to express my gratitude to the other beautiful women who took this journey with me last week. This was the most competitive pageant I have done, but in a fabulous way; each of us had a personal, passionate, and driven reason to be there. Each of us brought something valuable to the crown and I am so inspired by each of you! I am walking away from this not just with the wonderful opportunity to be Miss New York, but with amazing friendships. I know, I know, it sounds cliche, but it's totally true; I was surrounded by powerful, beautiful, effective women who I can respect. How blessed am I for such an experience. It is my personal charge to use my title to enrich each of your work this year. As local title holders, you have the opportunity to work more intimately with your communities and that is where deep change can happen. Anything I can do to assist you this year, I pray that you will reach out to me! I am at your service, and so incredibly in awe of each of you.
Oh man, I need to keep this short because I feel like I could gush my gratitude for hours.
No one believed in me more than my mother. She hand crafted every beautiful appearance dress I wore during the week. She sat for hours with me stitching up my competition wardrobe. She was the only face I could see in the crowd as the crown went on. I work every day to make her proud and to give back even a fraction of what she has given me; not only in gorgeous clothes and a constant helping hand, but in deep love and her constant insistence that this was possible. She is the one who, when I was 16 years old, told me I could fly. There is nothing easy about living on your own since 16, but somehow it never seemed hard because all along, she was there telling me I could do this. A beautiful voice never letting me cave, she is the most powerful person I know. We made it, Mommy.
My platform is Breaking Down Bullying, and already I have been approached by so many people sharing their stories and getting excited about my work ahead. Your stories ignite the passion in me; no one has the right to impede on anyone else’s ability to find happiness. My brother, Peter, grew up with Landau Kleffner Syndrome. I have seen his spirit almost completely broken at times because of ridicule and teasing from those who did not understand him. My sister, Virginia, is severely dyslexic. One of her professors in college was so ignorant to her disability, telling her she couldn't understand anything because she couldn't read, that she dropped her second major in her final semester because of one class left for which he was the instructor. He had no right to make her feel inferior. When I was cyber bullied in middle school I locked myself in a bathroom and told I mom I was going to burn my face off, because I thought it would make people stop being mean. How another person can sit there and ruin another persons life intentionally is simply beyond me. Just because someone is different does not mean they are wrong. No friend, peer, significant other, employer, teacher, or family member has the right to keep you from being as happy as you choose to be. There is room for every lifestyle, every choice, and every individual. Many of you may have heard that the New York State Senate just passed new legislation on bullying and cyber bullying. I have already been asked by several students I have met to come to their schools and talk about bullying. There is a wonderful energy behind this issue, and great change is happening! Young or old, we all have a place in making this better. Like I said on stage, if communities stand behind one another, the bully will have no place in this world. New York, we are one of the most progressive states in this country. Let's become the model of a bully and abuse free world.
During the week before the pageant, Claire Buffie told us she had made a list of everything she wanted to accomplish under the crown. She suggested we do the same. That night, I made my list. Yes, I definitely should have been sleeping, but I stayed up thinking about the year I would want to have. Since Saturday night the list has exploded. Not only with my own aspirations, but now laced with the wishes of others who have approached me. New York, you are my muse. From New York City to my home in Rochester and my friends out West, to my academic stomping ground in Potsdam and all the areas up North. The clock is ticking, but I am hitting the ground running for you. This year has nothing to do with me. It is about all the people and organizations who are making this world better that I can support. I am a key, and I have a year to unlock as many doors as possible for those who continue to make our communities better every day.
So hello, world. Let's get started.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Anybody check out my Central Park Challenge page lately? After walking on Saturday morning I had told you that we had reached $835 in donations. Well, the walk has been walked but the mission continued. This afternoon I got an email thatour fundraising total for YAI has reached $935!! That is only $65 short of the goal I set a week and a half ago! Unbelievable!!!
I cannot stress enough how much I appreciate and respect each person who helped make this possible. I know how hard times are right now; none of this money was just chillin' in your pocket with nothing to do. This money is going to a cause that is dear to my heart.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my brother. I have never fully shared his story and think this is a wonderful time to try. At age two and a half Peter had a seizure. It scared my parents to death, as he had been born perfectly healthy and they could not figure out where this had come from. Soon after he had another. And another. Epilepsy had taken over, and continued until he was five. I remember him having one once, and my mother throwing us in the car to race to the doctor. We would run him inside and I would watch as the doctor would ask, "Peter, where is Momma? Can you say hello?" He would cry and scream until he fell asleep. When he woke up everything was alright again.
But one time, that was not the case. After one seizure Peter recovered but would not talk. Not just in that moment, but ever. He was silent, and became significantly less responsive to language overall. Even his own name. He was ultimately diagnosed with Landau Kleffner Syndrome. This disease causes damage to the part of the brain that handles language and comprehension. It's effects are similar to autism. To this day, doctors still do not know what happened.
Growing up for Peter was obviously difficult. School was a challenge, as was his social life. Many of his peers taunted and teased him. I remember he used to cry as a child because he would get so frustrated that he could not communicate with us. As he got older, he would cry because he had come to realize he was "different." It angered him that he would not be able to live life like the rest of us do. I watched as Peter's spirit began to melt away. Not because of his disability, but because he foresaw a life of limitation and ridicule.
Luckily, we were able to get Peter involved in a number of programs similar to those offered by YAI. Special Sitters helped my parents find specialized babysitters. Supported Employment has helped him get skill training and on-the-job experience. He is even working on getting his license through Rochester Rehabilitation's specialized driving school.
I have seen him grow more confident with each day. He and I have spend hours on Skype talking through homework, working on job applications, talking about relationships, playing Red Alert (he always beats me in 2 minutes flat,) and sharing stories from his horseback riding class or my adventures in the city. He is a master of video games and WWII trivia. He can name every military aircraft ever built and tell you when and why it was designed. He is the most big-hearted, caring young gentleman I know. He is my biggest fan, as I am to him.
We will never know why Peter's life was changed, but he does not deserve to feel like any less of a person. It was not his fault. Yet, it is his battle to win. The programs he took part in have helped him learn to master his world. YAI does this every day for hundreds of people just like Peter. So I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting YAI.
And remember: no one had the right to take away Peter's happiness just because he was different, and that goes for every single living human on this earth. Just because something is new or different to you does not mean it is bad. Take the time to understand that persons world before you say or do something to hurt them. Even if you think it is a joke, you never know how much it may break them inside. Be a healer. Spread love, share compliments, and give support. Someday you may need the same.