YADKINVILLE — The students at Courtney Elementary School were excited Monday, because they were getting to meet a state celebrity — Miss North Carolina.
They listened intently to what Johna Edmonds had to say as she stood in front of the classrooms adorned with her sash and crown and talked to the kids about why she chose to compete in the Miss America pageant program, the benefits of the program and her platform — literacy.
“There are three benefits of getting involved in the Miss America program,” said Edmonds to Pam Steelman’s and Sharon Beauchamp’s fourth-grade classes, who joined together to hear Miss North Carolina.
She said the first reason was to get an opportunity to share her talent — singing.
“Me growing up in church I sang in the choir, so this gave me another way to be on stage,” said Edmonds, who became Miss NC after being named Miss Johnston County.
Another advantage of being Miss North Carolina, Edmonds explained, is the chance to travel the state for a year and share her platform.
“For me and Miss America and Miss North Carolina, I chose literacy,” said Edmonds of the cause she is championing around the state.
She explained to the students that her mother was a fifth-grade teacher for 30 years and was coach of her school’s Battle of the Books team.
“In second grade, I realized I struggled with comprehension,” the accounting major from North Carolina State University told the fourth-graders.
When she reached the second grade and the pictures in the books were no longer there, she learned she was struggling to read.
“I used programs like Hooked on Phonics so I could read by the time I got to third grade.”
As a college student awaiting a trip abroad, Edmonds spent two months helping her mom coach the Battle of the Books team and she realized that’s what her platform would be.
“Literacy is the basis of everything. You need it to function inside your society and I think a lot of people overlook it, because there are so many other things going on in society,” she said.
“At some time you are going to face a struggle, but if you put hard work in, you can face anything,” Edmonds told the students.
“When moving to Raleigh to attend North Carolina State, my mother told me to ‘create an extraordinary life,’ which requires the confidence to shape one’s own life in a purposeful way,” she said. “My favorite book, ‘The Monk and the Riddle,’ distinguishes the different between drive and passion. Drive is something you feel obligated to do, a duty. It pushes you forward. But passion is something that pulls you forward, something you cannot live without doing.
“Only passion will get you through the hard times.”
Another benefit of the Miss American program is an opportunity for college scholarships. She said the Miss America program is the leading provider of scholarships to young women worldwide.
“I knew one day I would want to go to college, and coming from a single parent home, I knew it would be difficult,” she said.
Her middle school had a pageant, and at age 12, she convinced her mom, who wasn’t a fan of pageants, to let her compete. She won, and has been competing every since.
Upon winning Miss North Carolina in June 2013, Edmonds had to take a year off of school in order to work for the program and travel the state to participate in parades, speaking engagements like the one at Courtney Elementary and other events.
In September, she traveled to Atlantic City, N.J., to compete in the Miss America competition, but didn’t win. So she returned to North Carolina to continue her work.
“It is probably the coolest job in the world and it is special, because you get to see the towns and communities and events in your own state, and meet people all along the way,” Edmonds said. “It is like you are in school, because you are constantly learning and experiencing new things.”
In addition to visiting classrooms during the school day, Miss North Carolina attended the parent night program Monday during which Principal Eddie Karriker also spoke.
Karriker referenced the book, “The Principles and Power of Vision” by Dr. Myles Munroe.
“Vision is the source and hope of life. The greatest gift every given to mankind is not the gift of sight, but the gift of vision,” Karriker said. “Sight is a function of the eyes; vision is a function of the heart. Vision sets you free from the limitations of what the eyes can see and allows you to enter into the liberty of what the heart can feel. It is vision that makes the unseen visible and the unknown possible.”
The principal also encouraged the students and parents in attendance by quoting Walt Disney. “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Reach Wendy Byerly Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 835-1513.