Miss Teen of Utah reads her book to Liberty Elementary students
Miss Teen of Utah Megan Okumura reads her own book to Liberty students, sharing with them the message that they all have inner beauty. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
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By Julie Slama | firstname.lastname@example.org
Murray, Utah - When Miss Teen of Utah Megan Okumura asked Liberty students what they thought a pageant is, fourth-graders answered: big puffy dresses, tiaras and beauty contests.
The high school junior informed them that wasn’t the case when she was crowned.
“This pageant was not a beauty pageant, (but it was) focused on scholastic achievements, service to school and community, personal development, general awareness of today’s world, personality, projection and confidence,” Megan said. “When people hear the word ‘pageant’ they immediately associate it with the word ‘beauty,’ but this specific pageant was designed to help youth in America reach their full potential and gain recognition for their hard work and achievements, not based on their looks. That was the most influential reason why I decided to participate.”
Megan wasn’t looking for a pageant to enter. In fact, the 16-year-old had never entered a pageant until a letter arrived in the mail inviting her, based upon her scholastic achievement, to compete in the Miss Teen of America pageant. She also was motivated to compete when she learned the pageant was linked to the Special Olympics and the winner would receive a $250 inclusion event at the competitor’s high school.
“Having worked with special needs students in school and at my church, I decided it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to bring more awareness of the Special Olympics in Utah, if I won,” she said.
In addition to the title, and hosting a Special Olympics event at Hillcrest High in Midvale, Megan received $1,000, which she plans to use to attend college at Brigham Young University.
However, Megan wanted Liberty students to realize that it is “more important to see what I’m doing, how I’m involved, who I am on the inside, not how I look in a swimsuit.”
So she brought with her the book, “The Bare Beauty,” which she wrote two years ago. It is a story about a tree that doesn’t have leaves and learns about “true beauty.”
“‘The Bare Beauty,’ is how they are on the inside, and helps provide confidence and self-esteem,” she said.
Within the book she also illustrated, are hidden pictures, each with symbolism.
“It was an opportunity for them not only to learn about pageants that award students for who they are, but also to learn that they can set goals and achieve them. I was in second grade when I learned a teenager wrote a book and decided that was something I wanted to do. I wrote a book then and it was put in my school library. I wrote this one when I was 14. Reading my book to them was a dream for me. I can foresee the impact it can give children if I were to publish it and have it in libraries,” she said.
Megan said that through the experience, she was able to relate to students at different levels.
“The kindergartners wanted to know about my favorite color while the fifth-graders, I could see, could understand the message,” she said.
Fourth-grader Katelyn Meyers would like to follow in Megan’s footsteps and write a book.
“I really do want to write a book like how she wrote we accept each other even if we’re different,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how we are outside as much as how we feel inside. She may be wearing a crown, but she’s a real person. She was asking us what kinds of word problems we were doing in math.”
Nine-year-old Ellie Ogden said she enjoyed Megan’s talk.
“She was inspirational and talked about what the pageant means and how we all are beautiful inside,” she said. “I might want to do that when I’m her age.”
Megan also shared with the students that she, like many of them, likes sports — she was a member of her high school cross country team this past fall — and that she has played piano for 10 years — and won the talent portion of her pageant by performing “Argentina” by Catherine Rollins. She also recently won Sandy City’s Youth Council public service announcement contest on domestic violence.
The next step for the National Honor Society member is to speak with other elementary-age children at other schools as well as compete for the national title Nov. 20 in Minneapolis.