Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lynchburg Rotary

On Thursday, December 18th, I had the opportunity to speak with Lynchburg rotary about the Miss America organization and my experience competing in these pageants. Rotary is a wonderful service organization so it's great to partner up with people also interested in service!

Thanks to the club for hosting me that morning!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top Ten Awkward Pageant Moments

From a contestants perspective, there are several things that happen often in pageants that at times seem unavoidable and at times seem completely preventable! Having competed in many pageants now (hold back your jokes about how long it took me to win last year!) I've compiled this list of common issues and my suggestions. Now, I am not saying that any of the current pageants have been miserable, since that is not the case at all. Just some helpful comments and suggestions!

10. Awkward silence during the crowning. It takes some time to get those bobby pins in, and when there's no music and a small audience, it feels extremely strange when you're either the crowner or the new winner! Try to have some music playing- even if it's cheesy!

9. Having more runners up at the front of the stage than there are contestants at the back. No one wants to be one of the only two contestants who didn't win anything, and it's really uncomfortable for five to be at the front while two girls are standing back there. Try to keep even numbers! I understand wanting to give many girls the chance to place as runners up, but it could really make the two non-placers feel bad.

8. Poorly placed entertainment. The girls backstage don't need the filler of entertainment right after intermission. They need the most time to get ready for talent- girls have to warm up, change into costumes, etc. Put the filler there!

7. The dead time waiting for the auditors to tabulate. Put some more filler there- invite a visiting titleholder to sing, the reigning Miss or Teen to perform her talent, or have the winner do her farewell then. That way, the girls backstage don't have to stand in their high heels for 30 minutes when they're called onstage.

6. Calling the runners up in the wrong order. An honest mistake, but makes things less suspenseful and could be embarrassing!

5. Talent music not working. Make sure you put your music on quality cds, carry a back up, and make sure that it works exactly the way you want it to at rehearsal!

4. Really complicated opening numbers. There are some girls for whom dancing doesn't come naturally, and the girls already have a lot on their minds that night. No extremely difficult dances, please!

3. Wardrobe malfunctions! Practice practice practice in your outfits before you hit the stage. There is nothing more embarrassing than wardrobe malfunctions! And I say this as someone who nearly lost her pants during Miss VA talent rehearsal!

2. Crooked crowns and backward sashes! In the heat of the moment, it's hard to remember!

1. Small audience! I know most people can't help this, but it is so weird to be competing in a pageant with 20 people in the audience! If you're a visiting titleholder, contribute to the clapping!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Miss VA in the news

Missed Tara on TV promoting the breakfast fundraiser? Check it out at the link below!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miss VA in the news


Published: December 16, 2008

The reception Tara Wheeler received Monday after speaking to 6th graders at Woodbridge Middle School was nearly overwhelming—literally.

The newly crowned Miss Virginia put on her bravest face when throngs of children a swarmed her for hugs and autographed pictures. Eventually, the Gar-Field High School and Penn State University graduate was able to sit down at a table and sign pictures for the dozens of children standing in line.

Like she did at many other Virginia schools—including Fred Lynn Middle School earlier this month—Wheeler delivered a positive message that included being yourself, not stereotyping people and doing something positive no matter how small it may be.

After Wheeler spoke and took questions for an hour, those who had met her and received autographs were practically skipping down the hall with delight.

Elizabeth Monzon, 11, said Wheeler's talk was "really interesting." Monzon said she was surprised to hear that Wheeler—a self-admitted tomboy—tried out for the U.S. Women's National Ice Hockey team and is a graduate of the Air Force ROTC program.

"I didn't expect all of this," Monzon said. "It was really surprising to hear her express herself in many ways."

Elise Rasmussen, 11, said Monday's experience was "really cool and really inspiring." She said her favorite part of Wheeler's speech is when she talked about being an individual no matter how much you stand out to other people.

Sarah Ervin, 11, said she plans on being nicer to people and to not criticize them as much.

Before coming out to speak to the children, Wheeler sat in the assistant principal's office telling stories about her life after winning Miss Virginia this summer. Wheeler has averaged 3,000 miles a month in trips across Virginia and Washington D.C., stopping to speak at prisons, schools and children's hospitals.

At one school, she received a wristband from a girl whose sister had recently died—a precious gift according to one of the girl's friends. Wheeler also experienced firsthand the love and admiration of terminally ill children.

"[There were] two little girls with no hair that were just beaming, they were so excited," Wheeler said of her trip to Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. "I got to crown them. They were making these excited faces and wanted me to stay and have a slumber party."

In October, Wheeler finished filming a reality show involving the 52 Miss America contestants called Countdown to the Crown. The show will air Jan. 2, 9, 16 and 23 on TLC. The pageant finale airs live Jan. 24 on TLC.

Thanks to the show, viewers have an influence on who makes it to the finals. America's top top four choices from Jan. 23's voting window will be automatically part of the 15 finalists determined by a separate panel of judges.

With the pageant competition just weeks away, Wheeler said she's trying to stay calm. She already knows whether she's eligible to be voted for by the public but is forbidden to release the information per the contest rules.

Finalist or not, Wheeler is proud of her accomplishments and the chance to positively influence people's lives as the reigning Miss Virginia.

"I will be driving down the road, all exhausted and I will think in my head, 'Oh my God, I am going to Miss America,'" Wheeler said. "They say you are more likely to have a son in the Super Bowl then have a daughter on the Miss America stage. It's incredibly prestigious just to make it this far."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Miss Williamsburg

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the 2009 Miss Williamsburg pageant. The show was extremely well-run, with no "dead time"! The auditors were really fast at tabulating results, too, so the emcees didn't have to stall at the end, which happens at a lot of pageants.

The emcees were two 3rd runners up to Miss America, Kristi Glakas and Hannah Kiefer, as well as Shawn Decker. You may know Shawn from his blog or through his wife, Gwenn, who has judged several local pageants this season and served as the judges chair last night. If you don't know Shawn, check out the website here.

Congratulations to Malissa Sibly, the new Miss Williamsburg
1st Runner up, Stephanie Van Petten
2nd Runner up Emily Hall (Evening Gown, Congeniality, Swimsuit)
3rd Runner up Victoria Maiden (Talent)
4th Runner Up, Heather Baker

We had the opportunity to see Andolyn Medina and Tara Wheeler perform as entertainment! The Williamsburg crew does a great job of providing wonderful scholarships for the ladies!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Miss Williamsburg this weekend

This weekend 8 girls will compete for the chance to be the new Miss Williamsburg. Last year's Miss Williamsburg, Brittany Gordon, was a top 11 finalist at Miss Virginia. This is a great program- I won $750 for being 2nd runner up last year! I'm traveling to Williamsburg tomorrow to watch the pageant and spend some time with my favorite Miss Virginia Beach, Shannon!

Heather Baker- Heather has competed in several locals this season.
Emily Hall- Emily has been second runner up at Miss Apple Blossom and Hampton Newport News. She won swimsuit at Hill City/Star City and Hampton Newport News

Victoria Maiden-Victoria was swimsuit winner and a runner up at the Miss Roanoke Valley pageant in September

Courtney Reed

Malissa Sibley-Malissa was a runner up at Miss Central Virginia this summer and swimsuit winner there

Abigail Staples-Abigail has competed in locals last year, but this is her first this year. She's a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor.

Melanie Torrence

Stephanie VanPetten-Stephanie was third runner up at Miss Apple Blossom Festival

This should be a great pageant with a tight swimsuit competition, with three local swimsuit winners in the mix!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My recent appearances

The last few weeks have literally been a whirlwind as I've tried to balance all my competing interests in life... a demanding class/teaching schedule, appearances, exercising, and spending time with family and friends. I have very quickly learned that life is all about balance!

I had a few appearances this weekend that I'll update you about.

On Saturday morning I headed to Salem for the Gingerbread Festival. I watched other performers then performed my tap dance from Miss Virginia. After that, I talked about me and my platform. Then I read Christmas stories to the children while they sat on stage with me. The kids were really cute and I had many volunteers to be my page turner! Thanks to Traci for this appearance!

Then I headed over to Lynchburg (I've joked about keeping an apartment in Lynchburg because I'm there so much, but luckily I always have somewhere to stay!) for the Lynchburg Christmas parade. We headed over there about 4:30 and Livi, Mati and I sat in the car at 5. I think we were the only queens out there with the top down! It was bitterly cold and snowing all the time, but we really had a good time! The Hill City ladies were very popular with the crowd! Our funny story is that some woman on the side of the route said "You go Miss Hillbilly!" because she thought that's what our signs said. We could have have numerous boyfriends or fiancees along the route, too! We had a good time and it took us a while to warm up.

I was supposed to travel on to Charlottesville to visit a friend but on our way back from the parade we saw about 5 major accidents in Lynchburg. Then my friend called and said there were more accidents between Lynchburg and Amherst County, so I ended up staying in Lynchburg for the night.

This week I have more Girl Scouts and then traveling to Miss Williamsburg this weekend! I am about 9 days away from being done with this semester, too, so I've been swamped with work!

Miss Virginia in the News

Maybe you've read some of the incessant hockey-related coverage of Miss Virginia on On Frozen Blog. On. Anyhow, she was at the Caps' facility this morning, in full Penn State regalia, to face shots from Ohio State's own David Steckel and Sean Collins.

Due in part to excessive numbers of media members saying "This event was made for you!" I boycotted the actual contest, but I did hear her post-shot remarks.

"I only blocked one of Steckel's, but it was a lucky block," she said. "I blocked a couple of Collins's, but I don't think he was trying. I don't think either of them were trying. But they do play in the NHL, so what can I say."

Friday, December 5, 2008

My exciting week

This has easily been one of the busiest weeks I have had the entire semester.

A week before Thanksgiving, I helped out a local Brownie/Junior troop at a store here in Blacksburg called Beadsburg. The girls were making bracelets and necklaces to give to others as gifts. I'll be helping out this group on a regular basis. I had the opportunity to meet two beautiful girls dressed in the summer Sunday best even though it was snowing outside! I had a blast helping them make bracelets.

On Monday, I attended the Blacksburg Girl Scout Service Unit meeting. I am helping out a troop on a regular basis here, and we had to decide what country we wanted to do for a February event. We chose England because I have lived there for a year. I also got the opportunity to meet with several Blacksburg leaders and offer my services up to their groups.

On Tuesday morning, I had a meeting with the director of the Women's Resource Center of the New River Valley. This center provides many valuable services to women in this area, especially victims of domestic violence. The director and I spoke and brainstormed for about an hour, and I've already got the wheels turning here at VT for an event next spring to provide for the greatest need that the WRC has.

On Tuesday afternoon, I drove to Lynchburg to meet with a local Junior Girl Scout troop. These were some of the most inspiring young ladies I have ever met. There are moments as a titleholder that you will treasure your entire year and beyond, and I met a young lady at this meeting that has more courage and spunk than I have ever seen in a ten year old. I spoke to 23 girls about being a good friend, how to deal with anger, and then I answered any questions that they had (which were definitely varied and interesting! Great interview practice!) The girls are even thinking about planning a troop trip to come cheer me on in Roanoke next June, and I am so thankful that I was able to meet these young ladies!

After that, I helped out with a local Daisy troop investiture ceremony. Being a girl scout all my life, it was like stepping back in time, saying the pledge, the Girl Scout promise, and singing the songs. The investiture ceremony is when girls officially become Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, or Seniors. The girls were really fascinated that I had earned my Girl Scout Gold Award and the national scholarship that came with it. At the end of it, the girls argued about who got to stand next to me in the "friendship" circle, where girls squeeze each others hands to say goodbye. Thank you to all the girls!

On Wednesday, I taught my last recitation class for the semester. It was somewhat bittersweet because I've really enjoyed the class and getting to know my students. I had a few students stay afterwards to tell me that i did a good job and that they really liked the class. This is my first time teaching, so those words meant a lot!

Then I visited Prices Fork elementary to meet with a local Daisy troop. We talked about being a good friend, being positive to others, how to have good posture, and then the girls were really excited when I taught them a tap dance step -shuffle ball change. They took turns trying the crown on and then we made thank you cards.

Tonight I am on my way back to Lynchburg for more appearances this weekend. It only gets busier as the semester winds down!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Miss Virginia News

Miss Virginia Takes to the NHL Ice

Tara Wheeler at the RinkOur favorite goaltender, Tara Wheeler, will be making her debut among NHLers next Tuesday, December 9, out at Kettler Capitals IcePlex after Caps' practice, when she'll don her goalie gear and take on Dave Steckel in a shootout. The Big Ten Network will have cameras there for the occasion, as the Ohio State center bears down on the Penn State goalie. Maybe, just maybe, we'll even see Alexander Ovechkin take on Tara.

That could prove to be a shootout mismatch, but knowing Tara as I do, she will be gracious toward Ovi in victory.

On Wednesday I received an invitation from Miss Virginia to attend the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas next month. Those sort of invites haven't come across my email inbox all that often. The pageant is January 24 -- a Saturday night. I told the beauty queen that I'd do my best to make it out there, and MVN may well be able to secure me a media credential for it. As mid-winter assignments go, there could be worse, right?

Tara then offered what I thought was a terrific Plan B: she said that if she didn't see me at the pageant that I had better be a part of a viewing party back home. So I thought, why not try and organize just that -- a gathering of puckheads, obviously at a Virginia watering hole, the Saturday night of the Miss America Pageant? We could all wear red, as Tara will be rockin' again in a red gown, which she wore when she won Miss Virginia back in the summer.

Oh how I hope one of those Miss America judges asks Tara a hockey question!

So we'll put our heads on this idea. We've got a few weeks. Share with us your interest in such a gathering, and certainly suggest some venue ideas for our pageant-watch.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quick Update

I am so sorry for the lack of blogging, I hope to check in later in the week! I have 1.5 weeks of class left so I've been consumed with enjoying Thanksgiving and getting through homework. The other reason I'm so busy is such a blessing: I reached out to many community members and the response has been overwhelming! My calendar is filling up more and more every day!
I have about 6 appearances this week, so I will check in soon with pictures and information about these recent appearances!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hampton Newport News Results

Confirmed H-NN Pageant Results

Preteen: Jordan Frankos

Teen: Shelby Smith


4th Runner up: Jessica Young
3rd Runner up: Lauren Cannon
2nd Runner up:Emily Hall
1st Runner Up:Meredith Brown
Winner: Emily Schwab

Talent & Congenality: Emily Schwab
Interview : Emily Schwab
Swimsuit: Emily Hall

A new appearance

Last night was spent with a local Brownie/Junior Girl Scout troop at a really neat store in Blacksburg called Beadsburg. I spent the evening helping the Girl Scouts put together necklaces and bracelets to give to others as gifts.

Many know that Girl Scouts is a crucial part of my platform; I was a Girl Scout my entire life, earning my Gold Award and receiving a wonderful $6,000 scholarship from the National Elks Foundation for my work. I have since served as a Girl Scout leader while in Lynchburg, and now I'm meeting with as many Girl Scout troops as possible across Lynchburg, Blacksburg, and southwest Virginia. I think it's so important for young women to learn lessons about self-esteem, goal setting, and recognizing "red flag" friendships and I have developed presentations for even the youngest Girl Scouts to talk about these issues. I'm also excited that I was asked by a Lynchburg troop to help with the planning and production of their Girl Scout Silver Award! Lots of exciting things are coming!

It was so much fun to meet all these girls and work with them, and I'm excited that the troop leaders want me to volunteer with them as much as possible! I had the opportunity to meet two very outgoing young women in the troop who were a lot of fun.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Miss Hampton-Newport News

This weekend, a new Miss Hampton Newport News will be crowned! The contestants are:

Meredith Brown
Emily Hall
Emily Schwab
Heather Baker
Kaytlynne West
Morgan Elwell
Jessica Young
Jayne Williamson
Lauren Cannon

Good luck, ladies!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Miss Virginia News

November 19, 2008
Miss Virginia to appear at Virginia Tech hockey game
Miss Virginia, Tara Wheeler, played goalie in college.
Miss Virginia, Tara Wheeler, played goalie in college.

Virginia Tech's hockey team tearing it up on the ice Wednesday night.

It was practice for Friday night's game when the Hokies take on Duke at the Roanoke Civic Center.

Only it won't just be the boys out on the ice.

Miss Virginia, Tara Wheeler, will put on her jersey during intermission for a shootout to benefit the Children's Miracle Network.

She's no stranger to the ice.

Since she was a goalie for the women's team at Penn State, she might give these boys a run for their money.

The game starts at 7:30 Friday night. Then Tech takes on Georgetown Saturday afternoon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Breaking Pageant News!

Sharon Pearce
Miss America Organization

609.653.8700 x117

52 Women. One Miss America. The competition beginS when TLC premieres “Countdown to the Crown” on January 2, 2009

for the first time ever, america gets to judge

and place four girls into the pageant finals

Last year, TLC and Miss America gave the pageant contestants a “Reality Check” and showed what it really takes to win the ultimate dream of becoming Miss America. This year, the stakes are even higher – a chance to win a spot in the pageant’s coveted “top 15” – when the 52 state titleholders live together and face a series of competitions in TLC’s COUNTDOWN TO THE CROWN. The four-part reality series kicks off Friday, January 2, 2009 at 10 PM (ET/PT).

Each one-hour episode, hosted by Tyler Harcott, finds the contestants living on the majestic Queen Mary ocean liner and navigating through a series of team and individual competitions that help them prepare for the pageant and prove they have what it takes to be a modern-day Miss America. Through it all, viewers at home get to know the girls, and ultimately have a hand in voting four contestants into the pageant.

“Miss America continues to evolve to reflect today’s young woman, and remains incredibly forward-thinking as it develops a new generation of intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate contestants,” said Art McMaster, President/CEO of the Miss America Organization.


Joining Tyler are two consultants - Kym Douglas and Antthony Mark Hankins – who guide the women through their experience and decide who is best prepared to become 2009’s Miss America. Through the challenges, the 52 contestants are expected to push their personal limits in an effort to win a gold sash, possibly advancing them into the top 15 at the Miss America pageant, which airs on TLC live from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 24.

Voting, which begins after the 15 gold-sash finalists are selected, will be conducted online at, and via text messaging.

“For the first time ever, America has the chance to be a judge and select four of the contestants they think deserves to make it into the pageant,” explains Brent Zacky, VP of Development at TLC. “By giving viewers the chance to get to know the girls during COUNTDOWN TO THE CROWN, we are confidant four great contestants will take the stage in January to compete for the Miss America title.”


Each week’s episode welcomes a guest consultant who spotlights one of the key pillars that create a successful Miss America contestant. These consultants also have a hand in selecting that week’s gold sash winner.

Episode 1: premieres January 2, 2009 at 10 PM (ET/PT)

Guest consultant: Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 and host on Fox Network’s FOX AND FRIENDS.

· Team Challenge: Quest for the Crown, a scavenger-style race through the ship.

· Individual Challenge: Pitch Perfect. The table’s set to determine the girls’ ability to remain composed, form an argument, and listen as well as she speaks.

Episode 2: premieres January 9, 2009 at 10 PM (ET/PT)

Guest consultant: Shakara Ledard, renowned supermodel

· Team Challenge: Fitness First Obstacle Course – the teams face off in a fun endurance race to the end.

· Individual Challenge: Runway Photo Shoot. Which girl has mastered her poise and confidence on the runway?

Episode 3: premieres January 16, 2009 at 10 PM (ET/PT)

Guest Consultant: Clinton Kelly, from TLC’s What Not To Wear. Clinton will also reprise his role as a special correspondent for the Miss America pageant.

· Team Challenge: Miss American Shopper. Will it be retail rivalry when each team has to share one shopping budget?

· Individual Challenge: Little Black Dress returns with a fashion-forward eye on personal style and resourcefulness.

Episode 4: premieres January 23, 2009 at 10 PM (ET/PT)

Guest Consultant: Susan Powell, Miss America 1981

· Team Challenge: Miss America’s Got Talent. It’s a talent showdown as the teams perfect a routine and compete against each other.

· Individual Challenge: Rock the Runway, where all of the planning pays off in their final chance to secure a sash.

Additional press materials, including series photography, are available at

COUNTDOWN TO THE CROWN is produced for TLC by Tijuana Entertainment. Executive producers are Troy Searer and John Foy.

Congrats to a former Miss Hill City


Miss Virginia Tech

The evening was full of unique talents, puzzling interviews, and sophisticated gowns. On stage, contestants battled it out to gain the title of Miss Virginia Tech.

Upon arriving, guests were charged $5 at the door and were asked who they came to support. At promptly 5:00 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 1, spectators were released into the Haymarket Theatre in Squires Student Center for the 4th Annual Miss VT competition.

The Zeta Psi Fraternity of North America presented the pageant in order to raise money for a local charity. All of the money earned went to the Interfaith Food Pantry, which helps needy families afford food. The earnings also went to the Christmas store, which creates packages for families who cannot afford them.

Robert Shubert, the Philanthropy Chair of Zeta Psi Fraternity said, “Zeta Psi has held this event all four years and every year it becomes a bigger hit.”

The audience nearly filled the Haymarket Theatre and groups of fans clustered together cheering for their favorite Miss VT contestant. The lights dimmed and all nine contestants took the stage. They began by introducing themselves and explaining what organization they represented.

Most contestants were competing on behalf of a sorority. Sororities included: Delta Zeta, Alpha Gamma Delta, Sigma Kappa, Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Phi, Chi Omega, and Alpha Chi Omega. The other two contestants represented Dance Company at Virginia Tech, and SalsaTech.

The three judges included: Dr. LuAnn R. Gaskill, Department Head of Apparel, Housing & Resource Management, Ronald Shidemantle, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Sonya Milstead, Miss VT winner in 2005.

The event began with performances by the official Salsa Club at Virginia Tech, SalsaTech, and Juxtaposition, Virginia Tech’s all male a cappella group.

The first round exhibited each of the contestant’s special talents. Some competitors sang or danced while others tumbled. Contestant Courtney Hatton, representing Dance Company at Virginia Tech said, “I was a little nervous at first because the floor was slippery and it was difficult to dance, but overall I think I did a pretty good job.”

The question round followed a second performance by Juxtaposition. Contestants were given challenging questions such as: “Name one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses,” and “If you were crowned Miss VT how would you improve a problem on campus?”

The evening gown round ended the competition a little after 7 p.m. and the raffle winners were announced. Juxtaposition walked on stage for a final performance and then all nine contestants were once again asked to come back out.

Lauren Singer, representing Alpha Chi Omega, brought the highest number of supporters and was crowned Miss Popularity. Alison Miller sponsored by Alpha Phi, received second runner up and Lauren Morris, member of Chi Omega, accepted first runner up. The ultimate title of Miss Virginia Tech went to Whitney Law, sophomore communication major sponsored by Delta Delta Delta.

-Samantha Harlan

Whitney was the 2008 Miss Hill City

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Virginia Tech

The last few weeks have been extremely busy. I can’t believe that I only have two weeks of classes left before I am ¼ of the way done with my masters! This semester has been the busiest I’ve ever experienced, but my grades are extremely strong and I feel confident about the work I’ve put into each class. I feel completely in my element here, especially when I am teaching! Teaching politics means thinking on your feet and having knowledge of many other areas- geography, history, sociology, economics, etc. I've gotten random questions from my students about the operations of ballistic missiles, public opinion on the Vietnam War from start to end, and had post-class discussions about the mortgage crisis. My students have on the whole impressed me. Last week, we discussed Iran and several of my students were very knowledgeable about a country that I suspect many Americans are not. They are bright, motivated, and ask intelligent questions. I've been a sounding board for graduate school advice, test anxiety, and had to learn about how to incorporate all kinds of learners into the process. It's been a wonderful experience and I've gained just as much from teaching my own class as I have from the classes I am taking!

Last week, I was in my executive branch class on Thursday afternoon as usual, when two fellow students called the teachers attention to a text message sent to all students that possible gunshots had been fired in Pritchard Hall. Our class of about 12 students immediately went silent- the mood changed completely.

Before coming to Virginia Tech, I guess I thought I knew some of what must have felt like to be a part of the events that happened on 4/16. At that very moment though, I could hardly even begin to describe my emotions accurately. Fear. Confusion. Feeling disturbed. Wondering if this was really happening. Trying to recall in my head if any of my students lived in that hall. We closed the blinds and wheeled a tv in front of the window and shut the door so it locked. In the room, the professor and two students had been on campus on 4/16, and there were changes in all three of them as they tried to understand what might be going on. We couldn’t really carry on with class, because everyone was going through their own emotions.

It turned out that the “gunshots” were really the sounds of an exploded nail gun canister in a dumpster, but you can never be too safe anymore. As a teacher, I’ve felt like it’s so important to be aware, watch your students, and note any strange behavior or attitudes that crop up. In that moment, I am sure that I only experienced a fraction of the emotions that Virginia Tech students felt in 2007. It is truly scary to be on campus in that situation, because you get the feeling that everyone else in the world knows what’s going on but you don’t. You’re sitting there in lockdown, having heard sirens a few moments before, trying to grapple with the possibility of real danger.

When 4/16 happened, I was studying abroad in England. The difference between American media coverage and British coverage was marked. Whereas British news covered it in the light of “look how this university pulled together”, American sources were interested in a blame game. Other TA’s that I work with were interviewed after 4/16, and turned down interviews with local news sources after the reporters asked “Do you think the president should be fired?”. Virginia Tech is an extremely close community, and it’s amazing that with so many students, it is truly possible to feel the same things at the same time- whether it’s pride in football games or concern over another potential shooting.

I walk by the buildings where several students were killed on 4/16 every day, and it is refreshing to see that the community has somewhat healed. Students go in and out of the buildings, on with their lives, and travel across the immense campus feeling safe.

Several people expressed concern when they heard I was coming here for graduate school. Rest assured that I am signed up for the VT Alerts system, and we got phone calls and emails to let us know what was going on. In any case, it is amazing to be part of a campus community that truly takes safety seriously and investigates problems. I honestly feel more safe here than I did as a senior in college at times.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Miss VA in the news

Click here to read about a recent article covering Tara Wheeler, Miss Virginia

Monday, November 10, 2008

Apple Blossom Article

Link below to the article covering the Apple Blossom pageant


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pageant Winners

Miss Hampton Roads:
Winner: Kristena Wright (Swimsuit, Interview)
1st Runner up: Shannon Oliver (Talent)
2nd runner up: Ashley Smith
3rd runner up: Chinah Helmandollar
4th runner up: Emily Schwab

Miss Apple Blossom Festival:
Winner: Caitlin Uze (Congeniality, Talent)
1st runner up: Erika Thomas
2nd runner up: Emily Hall
3rd runner up: Stephanie Van Petten
4th runner up: Alyce Haynes

Miss Lonesome Pine:
Winner: Victoria Jordan

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Recap: This weekends contestants

So here are all the contestants for this weekend's three Virginia pageants. Best of luck to everyone!

Miss Apple Blossom Festival:
Madison Van Duyne, Miss Apple Blossom 2008
Heather Baker- Heather has competed so far this season at Miss Hill City/Star City

Loren Ferster

Emily Hall-Emily competed in locals last year and competed in Miss Roanoke Valley (winning community service) and Miss Hill City/Star City (winning swimsuit)

Alyce Haynes competed in Miss Roanoke Valley and was 4th runner up, also competed at Miss Hill City/Star City

Araina Holloway Bethany Munt

Erika Thomas-Erika competed last year in Miss Greater Richmond, Miss Greater Springfield (1st runner up), and Miss Commonwealth (1st runner up) last year. This is her first local of this season.

Melanie Torrence
Caitlin Uze-Caitlin competed at Miss Virginia this year as Miss Greater Springfield; she was a top 11 finalist and a Preliminary Swimsuit Winner. This is her first local of the season.

Miss Hampton Roads:
Elizabeth Crot, Miss Hampton Roads 2008
Preliminary Talent Winner and 3rd Runner up to Miss VA

Emily Schwab-Emily competed at Miss Virginia 2007 as Miss Hampton Holly Days Festival. This is her first local of the season.

Kristena Wright-Kristena competed at Miss Virginia 2008 as Miss Fairfax; she was a non-finalist talent winner. First local of the season.

Shannon Oliver-Shannon competed at Miss Virginia 2008 as Miss VA Beach. She was a top 11 finalist, this is her first local this season. (Also my Miss Virginia roommate!)

Chinah Helmandollar-Chinah competed at Miss Virginia 2008 as Miss Greater Franklin County; she was 4th runner up and a preliminary swimsuit winner. She was recently second runner up at the Miss Roanoke Valley pageant.

Ashley Smith- Ashley has competed at Miss Virginia as Miss Virginia Beach (2006), Miss Virginia Peanut Festival (2007), and Miss Norfolk (2008). This is her first local of the season.

Ciara Brown-Ciara competed at Miss Virginia 2008 as Miss Southeastern Virginia. This is her first local of the season.

Meredith Brown
Constance Merryman

Miss Lonesome Pine:
Farahn Morgan, Miss Lonesome Pine 2008

Amanda French: Amanda competed in several locals last year, I believe placing as a runner up at two of them. First local of the season.

Misti Caviness: I believe Misti competed somewhere last year, I can't seem to remember where. This is her first local this season.

Rachel Miller: Rachel competed at a few locals last year and was a runner up at Miss Mountain Empire.

Alisha Evans Meagan Boyd Megan Boggs Nancy Kamal Victoria Jordan

Friday, November 7, 2008


Well, I had mentioned that I met Obama and Biden in 2006, and I recently uncovered this picture of my mom with Joe Biden. Just thought it would be great to share a picture of our new Vice-President Elect!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Miss Apple Blossom Contestants

Heather Baker of Troutville is a social sciences major at Virginia Western Community College. She will dance for her talent competition. Her platform is “Get Involved, Stay Involved, and VOTE!” Her sponsor is Winchester Printers.

Loren Ferster of Winchester is a junior at Shenandoah Conservatory, majoring in musical theater. Her career ambition is to perform on Broadway. Loren will sing for her talent competition, and her platform is promoting arts literacy. Loren’s sponsor is Q102.

Emily Hall of Louisa is a freshman at Piedmont Virginia Community College, majoring in music education. Her career ambition is to teach music in elementary schools. She will sing for the talent competition, and her platform is “4-H — Developing Our Youth.” She is sponsored by Winchester Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Alyce Haynes of Salem is a freshman at Radford University, majoring in fashion merchandising. She will sing for her talent competition. Her platform is “Empowering Women/Body Drama.” Her sponsor is Billy Carter and family.

Araina Holloway (not pictured) of Arlington is a graduate of George Mason University and is a student at Georgetown University, pursuing a master’s degree in journalism. Her career ambition is to be a broadcast journalist in sports and entertainment. She will sing for her talent, and her platform is curing cancer, specifically colon cancer. Her sponsor is A New Century Realty.

Bethany Munt(not pictured) of Alexandria is a William Smith College graduate and a student at George Mason University, pursuing a master’s degree in public policy. Her platform is “Pets Promoting Literacy.” Her sponsor is Powers Great American Midways.

Erika Thomas of Winchester is a communications major at James Madison University. Her career ambition is to own a marketing and media specialist company. She will perform a jazz dance for the talent competition. Her platform is “Reducing Truancy and Increasing School Attachment: One Day at a Time.” She is sponsored by First Bank.

Melanie Torrence of Amissville is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, where she majored in sociology. Her career ambition is to practice criminal law. She will play the flute for the talent competition. Her platform is “Recognizing the Importance of the Special Olympics in the Lives of the Disabled.” Her sponsor is Watts Financial Group.

Caitlin Uze of Arlington is a social work major at James Madison University. Her career ambition is to positively impact lives as a social worker. She will perform an Irish dance for the talent competition. Her platform is ”Building Positive Self Image.” Her sponsor is Fraternal Order of Eagles 824.

Stephanie Van Petten of Chesapeake attends Longwood University, majoring in elementary education. Her career ambition is to become an elementary school teacher. Stephanie will perform a tap dance for the talent competition. Her platform is “Stand Up! Stand Out! Eliminating Peer Pressure and Promoting Positive Self Esteem.” Her sponsor is American Woodmark Corp.

These girls will compete in the teen contest:

Taylor Campbell of Manassas is a 7th-grader at Stonewall Middle School. She is a soccer player, cheerleader, track runner, and swimmer, as well as an honor roll student. She will be tap-dancing for her talent competition; her platform is promoting literacy in reading.

Ashley Gregory of Mechanicsville is a freshman at Hanover High School. She is a Hanover Show Biz Kid, a National Junior Beta Club inductee, and has raised money for Children’s Miracle Network. She will perform a jazz ballet routine for her talent competition. Her platform is “Working with Special Needs Children.”

Miranda Harrison of Glen Allen is a sophomore at JR Tucker High School and Henrico Center for the Arts. She is a trained dancer and a member of the Ecology Club, Keyettes, Interact Club, and Drama Club. She will sing for her talent competition. Her platform is “Go Green Girl.”

Danielle Stryker of Winchester is a freshman at Foxcroft School. She is a performer at Wayside Theatre in Middletown while taking classes at Shenandoah University. She will perform a Shakespearean monologue for her talent competition, and her platform is “Stop Animal Cruelty.”

As long as I get through most of my homework, I plan to drive up and cheer on some of these girls. I have lots of friends competing, so it will be exciting to be in the audience!! Extra good luck wishes to Katie, Emily Hall, Heather Baker, Miranda H, and Taylor Campbell! I also love watching other tap dancers, so it will be a treat to see both Taylor and Stephanie!

Miss AZ quoted in paper

I found this article online, but I think the author failed to write it quite properly. It makes it sound as thought Erin Nurss, Miss AZ, has a child in Iraq. I think the journalist was referring to the first woman quoted in the paragraph.

“I am crying because my son was the first navy sailor to be killed in Iraq. I believe it is the best to fight terrorism; he fought in Vietnam and knows what the nation needs. Obama does not have the experience and has also associations with terrorist,” Debbie lee said to Yemen Times. Erin Nurss, Miss Arizona for 2008, said she was disappointed that McCain lost the race. “It is disappointing that he did win; he has done much for Arizona, while another Republican female fan said the Americans were stupid when they voted for Obama. She said her son is in the navy and will be commanded by inexperienced president.

Looks like the journalist missed a set of quotation marks, too!

Article from the Yemen Times

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our new president

Barack Obama makes history as the nation's first African American president, headed into the White House next January with a clear mandate for change.

John McCain's concession speech was a wonderful reflection of McCain's nature himself, as he calmly responded.

Election 08

Today, America will make history no matter the outcome. Although I hope everyone stays safe, I'm particularly hoping my mother, chair of the Board of Elections in our county in Ohio, will survive this day! It could be a long one!

I first met Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2006 while working for the chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. Both came to speak at the annual ODP dinner. I've been a Joe Biden fan for years. Biden and his office drafted the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, passed by the Clinton administration. This bill has provided billions of dollars to programs helping victims of violence, encouraged tougher laws for perpretrators, and is a key piece of legislation that many states model their programs after. To have a vice-presidential candidate, and potential vice president, who has truly been a "maverick" for women's rights is exciting for me as an advocate for women's rights and victim protection.

All eyes are on the battleground states today, and I'm particularly curious about Ohio and Virginia. In the past, I have worked numerous general and primary elections in Ohio. This last March, during the primary election, our weather was so bad that Sheriff's deputies had to deliver the ballot boxes back to the Board! I heard today that Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State in Ohio, is anticipating an 80% turnout in the state. This is not really a surprise to me, since so many people have already voted early and there are still lines for hours outside the polling places! Ohio has a lot at stake in this election as does our neighbor Michigan. Both states are some of the hardest hit in the foreclosure crisis, facing staggering unemployment rates as manufacturing and the auto industries crumble.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Miss Lonesome Pine Contestants

Rachel Miller

Victoria Jordan
Nancy Kamal

Misti Caviness

Megan Boggs

Megan Boyd

Amanda French
Alisha Evans

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Miss VA USA and Teen USA crowned

Last night in Bristol, two young women were given the opportunity to represent Virginia in a national pageant. Congrats, ladies!

Miss Virginia And Miss Virginia Teen USA 2009 Crowned At VIC

Bristol Herald Courier, Earl Neikirk

Miss Virginia Teen USA 2009, left, Maggie Lawson and Miss Virginia USA 2009, right, Maegan Phillips, were crowned Saturday, October, 25, 2008 in Bristol, Va. at Virginia Intermont College.

By The Continuous News Desk

Published: October 26, 2008

Miss Virginia Teen USA 2009, left, Maggie Lawson and Miss Virginia USA 2009, right, Maegan Phillips, were crowned Saturday, October, 25, 2008 in Bristol, Va. at Virginia Intermont College. Lawson is 17 and from Bristol, Va. Phillips is 21 and from Quantico, Va. The winners continue on and Miss Virginia will compete in the Miss USA pageant.

Check out Monday’s Bristol Herald Courier for more info and photos.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last weekend, I received an incredible blessing! My school schedule has kept me from being able to update until now, but I am finally ready to blog!

This last weekend I competed in my first Miss America preliminary of the season-Miss Hill City/Star City. I knew going into the pageant that I would truly be happy to win either title; I’ve lived for 4.5 years in Lynchburg and consider it my second home but also currently live 30 minutes from Roanoke, too! I was really excited heading into the weekend.

I want to personally thank Sarah Fitzpatrick for her help leading up to the pageant. My evening gown needed a few last minute alterations that I couldn’t afford and didn’t trust to a new seamstress; Sarah performed them herself. She also loaned me her earrings during the night of the pageants when I left every pair in my hotel room. Thank you so much for your help, support, and continued friendship! As the “Lynchburg” people, I also appreciate your attempts to help me through the more confusing roads of Lynchburg that I STILL get lost on!

I was really blessed to have numerous people in the audience supporting me. My mom had planned to come but my brother became incredibly sick a few days before the pageant. Even though I heard him in the background on the phone encouraging my mom to come, I am glad she decided to stay home and take care of him and his bronchitis. Doug, your time as escort will sure come again

Thanks to Carolyn and Mandi Dolan for being such wonderful people and being a great cheering section! I also had good friends Shannon Oliver and Katie Uze in the audience, who stayed with me during the weekend. The three of us are a true emblem of the Miss Virginia “sisterhood” and I appreciate both of them coming a long way to support me!

This was the first pageant I’ve competed in that I felt 100% confident with myself and my clothing. I walked out of my interview almost laughing with myself because I knew I had been so true to myself, even admitting the dorky qualities about myself that make me Laura. I really felt like the judges got to know me and why I wanted the job, and I was really impressed with the judges- they were well versed in how to run an interview! The questions were great, there were no awkward pauses, and the topics covered were a wide range.

The girls competing in this pageant were GREAT. It is so much fun getting to know new people backstage. Five minutes before the crowning, Amanda Jones and I were talking about where we should compete next. I suggested that we should both drive to Miss Apple Blossom Festival, and so when Amanda was crowned as Miss Star City, I was just as excited for her as when I won! It’s always a pleasure seeing Farahn, Heather Baker, Emily Hall and family (whose younger sister Olivia is the new Hill City preteen!), but it was also nice to meet new faces.

I consider it an incredible blessing to have won. The judges asked me in my interview what one word best described me and I chose “persistent.” I have never given up, despite the odds. Miss Hill City was my 13th pageant ( 11 locals and Miss Virginia!) but for the second time this year 13 wasn’t such an unlucky number. I was contestant #13 at Miss Virginia, so I’ve decided to embrace the “unlucky 13”!

I’ve talked to many people about the power of this organization to help young women grow, and I feel that it has done just that for me. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I won a pageant. I’m so used to driving and competing in a pageant and coming home, so all this week I left that “Hill City” banner sitting out where I could see it to remind myself! What an incredible opportunity for me. Like the other opportunities in my life, I’m going to take it and run with it. I’ve been given the chance to pursue my educational dreams at Tech and my personal dreams this year, and that is a wonderful experience.

I’ve been busy since getting back jumping back into teaching and volunteering yesterday at Virginia Tech’s Chocolate Festival, but I’ll have more updates soon! For the next few days I will return to “Student Laura”, but I’ll be back!

Thanks to Katie Uze and Hester Fletcher for taking photos, some have been posted on my personal website.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Miss Hampton University

It took some work with Google, but I finally discovered who won Miss Hampton University last night!

The winner is Shannon Cooper, and according to the blog I found, she's a senior communicative sciences and disorders major. She's originally from Miami, where she interned at the Speech, Language, and Hearing Center this summer.
She performed a dance solo to Christina Aguilera's "Walk Away".

Her platform is
I Hold the Key to Communication: Speaking Out about Hearing Loss, Who It Affects and How It Can Be Avoided

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Miss Clayland to be Crowned

Tomorrow Karissa Martin, reigning Miss Ohio, will crown a new Miss Clayland. The Miss Clayland program is known for giving out great scholarships; the article below mentions that the winner will get $4,500.

The contestants are Erica Gelhaus (2nd runner up to Karissa at Miss Ohio this year), Alicia Huyghe, Monica Johnson, Starkeisha Coleman, and Danielle Henry.

Best of luck, ladies!

Next weekend will be a "double crown" weekend as in Virginia there will be a new Miss Hill City and Miss Star City and in Ohio a Miss Portsmouth and Miss Scioto Valley.

Miss Clayland

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Election Update

I know I'm a big political nerd, but this is the most fascinating election we've seen in a long time. Let's take a look at some polling information to see how the candidates are doing.

The "old battleground states" OH, VA, MI: These three are current projected to go to Obama.

Ohio: McCain had the lead, peaking on September 11, until September 30, when he and Obama became deadlocked. Obama's gap has since widened, today giving him 48.9 % and the lead.

Michigan: Obama had been leading all throughout August, so it's not a surprise that this is the state McCain chose to vacate. Today, Obama sits at 49.1.% of the vote.

VA: Virginia's has been all over the place. After September 26, though, Obama has surged into the lead. Today, he sits at 49.9%

The "new battleground states"
North Carolina: Virginia's southern neighbor, McCain has had a dramatic lead in the state (sometimes an 11% lead!) but the candidates are nearly deadlocked right now.

Missouri: The same is true of Missouri. McCain had a vast lead in Missouri and was projected to win here, but it's too close to call as of today.

Want to know what the current polls are predicting? You can check out the site where I got my information and follow it up on your own. Yahoo has provided an up to date electoral map with polling numbers and state by state information.

Check it out here.

I need your help!

As many of you know, I'm preparing to compete in the Miss Hill City/Star City pageant on October 18, 2008. Thanks to some generous donors, I've raised most of my CMN money for this pageant. I'm still $35 away from my goal! Would you consider donating $5 or $10 to help me get to Miss Hill City/Star City, and ideally one step closer to Miss Virginia?

I'd really appreciate any help you can give.


Monday, October 6, 2008

I'm done!

I'm mailing off my absentee ballot today (even though I've lived in Virginia the last 4.5 years, VT didn't consider me a VA resident because I hadn't been a renter, and hey, Ohio needs my vote anyways!) and today is also the deadline for VA and DC voters to register. I don't need to remind you how important it is to vote in this election; many would argue that this is "the most important election of our time". So exercise your civic responsibility! Read up on the candidates, and not just those running for president! My Ohio ballot was two pages front and back full of races and issues, so be an informed voter whether you're voting absentee or heading to the polls!

You can follow up on the latest election news at the website below, which shares polls from around the country. Keep in mind, though, that during primary season many news outlets called wins for Obama using exit polls and they didn't reflect the real outcome: sometimes polls aren't indicative of reality. They can be a helpful guide, but if close recent elections are anything to go by, we'll have to wait until late Election Night to really know what happened!

P.S. I know McCain had to pull out of somewhere due to finances, but Michigan? There are few places hurting in the country worse than the Ohio/Michigan area, and I think such an abrupt leave sends the message that he doesn't care about voters there. I guess we'll see how that one pans out, but I predict that MI will go for Obama in light of the recent economic problems on Wall Street and McCain's abandonment of a state in such desperate need of help.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Upcoming Pageants

We're getting into the 2008-2009 pageant season! The season kicks off with these upcoming pageants:

October 11th, 2008: Miss Hampton University
Closed Pageant

October 18, 2008: Miss Hill City/Star City
Open Stacked Pageant
Lynchburg, VA
Now Held at Dunbar Middle School

November 8, 2008: Miss Lonesome Pine
Open Pageant

November 8, 2008: Miss Hampton Roads
Open Pageant

November 8, 2008: Miss Apple Blossom Festival
Open Pageant

Check out the Miss Virginia website for details and come out to support the girls!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sharing a little talent

It's time for a little shameless promotion!
My fabulous Miss Virginia roommate and friend Shannon Oliver, Miss Virginia Beach, has been recording songs. It's not news to anyone that Shannon is incredibly talented (among her many other qualities!)

She has created a myspace to share her songs, and I wanted to provide a link here to people could literally hear what she is up to! Shannon is a great roommate to have at Miss Virginia for her endless entertainment and great personality.