Your Turn: Offering ‘H.O.P.E.’ To Kids

This summer I will have the privilege to compete in the Miss Florida pageant and then hopefully move on to the Miss America pageant. Being part of the Miss America organization is a wonderful experience for any young woman and requires a lot of hard work. Most people think we’re just “beauty queens” and wear crowns on our heads. However, we are much more than that. For example, while getting ready for Miss Florida, I have to prepare for my interview, the swimsuit competition, my talent performance, and my main purpose: my platform. H.O.P.E., (Helping Other People Eat), a non-profit organization that focuses on the prevention and awareness of eating disorders, is my chosen cause.

Today in the U.S., 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from eating disorders. This is a crisis in our country and just one reason I chose it as my platform. As part of H.O.P.E., I’ve had the opportunity to spread education and awareness about the devastating effects of eating disorders. In today’s society, there is tremendous pressure on body image, which leads to low self-esteem and potential eating disorders.

As a young dancer striving for perfection, I watched so many of my best friends go through heartbreaking battles with bulimia and anorexia. In the dance world the desire to have that perfect body can push you to do things that are unhealthy. Most heartbreaking? That type of perfectionism has become a part of the regular mentality in today’s society. I’ve even gone through my own personal body issues that impacted my self-esteem. That battle with self-worth is another reason that I chose H.O.P.E. as my platform.

My main focus in everything that I do is to inspire young women and men to have a positive self image, whether at school, dance, the gym, or elsewhere. H.O.P.E. was created by a young woman who battled those everyday demons and society’s harsh view of body image. She turned herself from victim to victorious by helping other young people educate themselves. In turn, I also champion that challenge each time I speak before a classroom or at a function because spreading awareness is the only way to encourage others to love their bodies.

Through H.O.P.E. I’ve been able to participate in “The Great Jeans Giveaway,” a campaign that focuses on helping others to be more comfortable in their own “genes.” We collect jeans from communities around Florida that people may not feel comfortable in anymore and then we donate those jeans to charities.

This year I have many events and campaigns planned and I would love to share those with my community. Thank you, Ocala, for allowing me to represent this area in the Miss America organization and to shed some light on this serious problem.

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