Reflections on a Year of Service:
By Jacqueline Schiffer, Miss Champaign-Urbana 2011
The Holiday Season- a time for family, friends, reflection, giving of ourselves, goal-setting, and most importantly, thanksgiving. As I look back on this past year, I am so grateful to have been Miss Champaign-Urbana 2011. Through 57 public appearances and countless hours of service, I learned a great deal not only about the Miss Illinois and Miss America Organizations, but also the importance of dedicating yourself to service as a pageant titleholder. Service is an ESSENTIAL to any titleholder’s reign for the following reasons:
1. It forces us to reflect on both our organization’s and our personal values
2. A tiara is a voice for OTHERS
3. Service creates an internal transformation
During my year as Miss Champaign-Urbana, my most meaningful involvement was serving on the Board of Directors for Meals of Hope C-U (http://www.mealsofhopecu.org). Meals of Hope was directly related to my personal platform, Feeding America. By collaborating with the Board, we founded our own non-profit organization and raised over $14,000 providing over 55,000 meals to needy families in Central Illinois.
For one fundraiser, I sang a benefit recital at a local church (clips available online at www.jacquelineschiffer.com). After the recital, I was exhausted, but little did I know, my most meaningful moment as Miss Champaign-Urbana was about to happen.
A little girl with Down’s Syndrome quickly ran up to hug and congratulate me on my performance. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Miss Sally*” she answered proudly. Soon after, she was telling me how much she loved princesses. I could tell how excited she was to meet a titleholder and I decided I had to let this sweet little girl hold and try on my tiara. She was thrilled! As I was showing Sally my tiara, I remember my local director telling me one should always explain the organization’s ideals (the four points of an MAO crown are scholarship, service, style and success).
In the blink of an eye, I was forced to quickly and simply explain not only what “wearing the crown” meant to me, but more importantly, what it would mean to Sally. I explained the four points of the crown like this:
• Scholarship—Sally, always try your very best at school. You might not always have the right answers, but give it your best shot.
• Service— Sally, always help others as much as you can.
• Style— Dress like a princess, not to show off, but so others will know you are a princess who cares.
• Success— If you can do these simple things to the best you’re able, you’ll know you’re the best princess you can be.
Sally opened up into a long conversation with me. Her grandparents were moved to tears as she said goodbye. After the family left, the Reverend of the church told me, “She never talks much to anyone. You did a really special thing for that little girl tonight.” And for me, it meant everything in the world.
It IS all about world peace
A former Miss Illinois titleholder once said her tiara was not her voice, but an extension of her voice. As a titleholder, we must remember that we are role models and as former Miss America Katie Stam said, “Ambassadors” for a cause. During my year of service, I worked with many outstanding charitable organizations—some were related to my personal platform or the Miss Illinois state/Miss America national platforms. Others were not. Sometimes, I chose to get involved with a cause simply because I believed in it.
Once after speaking at a local middle school about bullying, a young boy came to tell me how much it meant to him that I had taken a stand against bullies. He told me he got picked on, yet my speech had caused his bullies to think twice!
I also led a dance/theatre clinic for girls with Triple Threat Mentoring (www.triplethreat.org). The arts are not my personal platform, yet to serve others we must continually find ways to use our talents to connect and reach out to others.
Imagine if every titleholder used her talents to their fullest extent. As a titleholder, you have the ability to impact and inspire others— if not you, then who?
A personal transformation
An anonymous author once said volunteering and service provide you with more than you give. My heart was warmed and my life changed by all the wonderful people I met during my Year of Service. If you put your whole heart into service, it will enrich your life far beyond pageant day.
Before Miss Illinois many people asked if I was nervous to compete. My answer was no and even when I did get jittery before going on stage, I reminded myself that Miss Illinois Week (as much fun and excitement as it is) is only 1 of 52 weeks in a year of a titleholder’s reign.
Don’t get me wrong—the actual pageant is an incredible and important part in a titleholder’s mental, physical, emotional, and professional growth. However, one must remember in a State/National competition, you were already given a crown for a reason. I knew going into Miss Illinois that I had already served a purpose in my local community and would continue to do so regardless of the pageant’s results. Whether it is the ability to impact your local community or the nation, make the most of it!
As someone who tried 5 times before winning her first local title, I’d say it’s important to “wear the crown before winning.” Even if not selected as a titleholder, emulate your own ideals of service and success— you are bound to see results!
It never ends
Recently, I was asked to join Jojo Sayson’s Project Michelangelo (www.projectmichelangelo.org) with Tiara Magazine Editor-in-Chief Sherrie Gearheart and many others committed to making a difference. I met Jojo at the LOLC Charity Fashion Show while I was volunteering. My dream is now to combine my passion for music and teaching to help children in the Philippines.
Every titleholder’s reign must end, yet while my year of service as Miss C-U is over, I know that the lessons I learned, experiences I had, and people I met will carry me through a LIFETIME of service.