It was Thanksgiving, it was 75 degrees, and I was surrounded by my family. As we all sat at the table eating our Thanksgiving dinner my name was called. "The National Volunteer Service Award goes to Kristin Hamerski, Miss Alaska Teen." And then to my happiness, my name was called once again, "The First Runner-up National Academic Achievement Award goes to Kristin Hamerski, Miss Alaska Teen."
Now I bet you're wondering why I was receiving these awards during Thanksgiving dinner. The answer is simple. As Miss Alaska Teen I went down to Orlando, FL, for my national pageant, which was held Thanksgiving week. The pageant held a Thanksgiving dinner for pageant contestants and their families so that everyone would be present for the awards ceremony. I was extremely happy to have my family there for such special awards of recognition.
It was really phenomenal to get all of my family together for Thanksgiving. Since I live in Alaska, and most of my family lives in Florida, the national pageant was the perfect way to get everyone together. Not only were we able to have Thanksgiving together as a family, but we were also able to go to Walt Disney World together. I will treasure forever the time I was able to spend with Mom, Dad, my brother Erik, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins. Not only did we include our family in on this national pageant competition, but we brought along several of our friends too! I could not think of better people to have had supporting me during my national pageant competition. Remember, you will always compete better, to the highest pinnacle of your ability, if you have an amazing support network. That network is, of course, your family, friends, and your faith in God!
This national pageant caters to families. Part of the fun at this particular pageant is that family members can even win awards, like Biggest Family, or Grandmother with the Most Children, Grandchildren, and Great-grandchildren. There was even an award for the pageant contestant whose family members traveled the greatest distance to come to the pageant. Another award was for the best scrapbook, so we all made sure to keep our pictures on hand.
Adding Family to Your Competition
Kristin and her extended family in Orlando after Thanksgiving dinner
You can incorporate family into just about any competition event. Just make sure you ask questions ahead of time and be sure that the competition does cater to families. This really can be a wonderful experience for you and your family.
Here's how I turned my national pageant competition into a family get-together. Since I knew where the pageant was going to be held (in Florida where many of my relatives are located), and I knew the dates and times several months in advance, I was able to inform everyone so they could plan on making the trip there for Thanksgiving. You can do the same. Whether you are competing in a pageant like I was, a sporting event, or some other competition you just need to get the vital facts on the competition and inform everyone. If you can find an event that is around a holiday time, that can make it even more special.
From Thanksgiving dinner and pageant competitions, to trekking around Downtown Disney and the four theme parks of Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom, we did it all as a family! Besides the stack of photos (and I do mean stack of photos), souvenirs, and pageant gifts, I took back to Alaska something even more important. I took back memories of times shared with my family, which will never rust, grow old, or be destroyed. I feel very blessed to have been able to turn something like a national pageant into an experience with my family that will last forever! But remember, all those photos are great too, so take lots of pictures of your competition and family get-together!
Letters of Recommendation
Here's a tip when competing in academic and volunteer contests: obtain letters of recommendation. When seeking letters of recommendation, try to ask people who know your talents and want to see you succeed. These could be people in your church, like a pastor, or anyone else who knows what you have been doing and sees your dedication and determination. As a Practical Homeschooling columnist, I was very blessed to have Mary Pride write me a letter of recommendation. I also procured letters of recommendation from Alaska's Lieutenant Governor, Loren Leman, regarding my work on the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Task Force. In addition, I have worked actively with Special Olympics for quite some time, so Nicolle Egan, Vice President of Special Olympics Alaska School Programs wrote me a letter. Since I just started college I asked my University of Alaska Anchorage Honors Professor, Dr. Miranda, to write me a letter, which he was happy to do.
Don't wait until it's time to compete to get all of your letters. You can ask for a letter of recommendation at the end of a project or job. Don't be afraid to ask; people are usually very happy to write letters of recommendation for people who show that they are determined to succeed. All of the people I have mentioned have both helped and inspired me. For this I am truly thankful!
For the particular competitions in academic and volunteer pursuits the national pageant allowed me to not only fill out the forms telling what I had done, but also to compose a portfolio for each competition. In these portfolios I was able to include pictures of what I had done, certificates, and other documents verifying my work. A tip here is to always save certificates, pictures, and any document that can verify the activities with which you are involved in. You can even include published works such as newsletters, magazines, booklets, newspapers... the list goes on. Just look for anything that demonstrates your abilities. This is a great project to work on during the school year. By doing this you will have a nice portfolio all prepared for college with a list of everything accomplished in the two important areas of academics and volunteer service. I would highly recommend looking for competitions where you can submit a portfolio like this rather than just a form, because a portfolio presents a much better representation of your work. Besides, pictures always help the judges to see a person, not just another sheet of paper!
I would encourage other youth to work towards strong academic and volunteer records. Not only will it help you in college, but it will also, more importantly, help you throughout your entire life! I would also like to encourage all of the adults reading this column to mentor youth and help them find where their talents shine most. In doing this you will inspire them just as much as the people I have mentioned have inspired me!
Competing is fun, winning awards always makes people feel accomplished, but I have found that the greatest sense of accomplishment comes one day at a time working on continually growing and becoming who God wants me to be. One special moment I will always remember is when I surprised my two "princess" cousins, Brenda and Samantha, with an early Christmas present of Disney princess dresses. Their eyes lit up so bright and with such joy, I will never forget that moment. Truly, prizes and awards are temporary, but family is forever!