As I enter my final few months as Miss Massachusetts, 21 young women from around the Commonwealth are busy practicing their talents, hitting the gym, reading up on the news----and preparing to take my job. I've invited each contestant to be a "guest writer" on my blog and contribute a piece that demonstrates her unique personality, interests and experiences. Over the next several weeks, members of the Miss Massachusetts Class of 2017 will be featured in this series as we "Countdown to the Crown". This week's featured contestant is Samantha McGraw, Miss Collegiate Area 2017.
“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” -Robert Fritz For the past three years, I have been competing in the Miss America Organization, holding three local titles and competing in Miss Massachusetts two times. This July I will yet again be able to vie for the title of Miss Massachusetts, and hopefully be crowned by the lovely writer of this blog, Alissa Musto, Miss Massachusetts 2016. My name is Samantha McGraw, and I was crowned Miss Collegiate Area 2017 during this year’s pageant season. I grew up in Brockton Massachusetts, but recently have moved into my own apartment in Bridgewater Massachusetts with my beagle puppy who I still have yet to name. (I am thinking Theodore or Philip! My indecisive self should have a name by the end of the week!) I am a sophomore studying Physical Education and Exercise Science at Bridgewater State University, and plan on perusing a master’s degree upon graduation in Occupational Therapy so I can one day become an Occupational Therapist specializing in developmental disabilities. I am extremely interested in how human muscles work, which has made me become an avid Crossfitter and runner. I currently work as a Special Olympics of Massachusetts track and field coach and at Planet Fitness in Stoughton Massachusetts. Overall I am extremely outgoing and love making people laugh. (Wow, would this make a really good dating profile or what?!)
Now you are probably wondering why there is some random quote starting this blog post off. Well there’s a few reasons, the most insignificant being that I just don’t exactly know how to start off a blog post. In my spare time I do video blogs, so I thought this would be really easy, but boy was I wrong. Putting all that aside, the quote actually is an overall description of the outlook I have on my day to day life. As a competitor in this organization, I know the value and impact it has on each individual who has ever competed in the local, state, or national level. It is a program that helps women with their speaking skills, service projects, financial needs, style, future ambitions, ext. For me, this organization has not only helped with all of the above, but it also helps me remember that my dreams can be reality if I work hard for them. I never really lived a “normal childhood.” When I was in the fourth grade, I was diagnosed with a hip condition that left me using a wheelchair until I entered high school. I spent months on end at Children’s Hospital Boston, constantly getting new procedures done to help me walk again. I spent a lot of my time flipping though channels on the hospital television, since there isn’t much you can do while hooked up to IV tubes and digital monitors. As silly as it seems, my spark of interest for pageantry began while discovering the show Toddlers and Tiaras in the hospital out of pure boredom. Don’t get me wrong, some of the things that went down on that show are super questionable, but it totally had me interested in what pageantry was all about. When I started googling more things about pageantry, I discovered the Miss America Organization. As an awkward looking twelve-year-old in a wheelchair, I admired these beautiful and intelligent women who competed on the Miss America stage, and dreamed that one day I would be able to do the same.
After my first surgery, there was question as to if I would ever be able to walk normally again. Many doctors told me it would be impossible for me to ever walk again. Now Miss America has a rule against individuals competing that are not in good health, so twelve-year-old Samantha did not think that accomplishing that dream could ever be possible. As I continued to fall in love with the Miss America Organization, I realized that I was not willing to compromise and view my goals as unreasonable. I continued physical therapy and had a goal to one day be able to live a healthy, active, and mobile life. After four surgeries and endless hours of physical therapy, I began to walk once more and that dream started to become a reality. Junior year I was excited and ready to sign up for my first local. The first local I competed in was Miss Taunton 2015, and I was a MESS! Seriously though, I recall my onstage question answer having something to do with cleaning up after cows and chickens… My platform (which at the time was something that had to do with animal adoption) was super undeveloped and I had no serious connection to it. After getting home after obviously not placing in the pageant, my family and I had some good laughs. For a minute I joked that I wouldn’t be cut out to be an actual competitor, but soon I realized that competing in the Miss Massachusetts 2015 pageant season would be possible if I truly wanted it.
I began working hard and figuring out how I could use the Miss America Organization as a way to impact my community. One night before I went to bed, a new platform idea hit me. I recalled how after being cleared to walk again, I donated my wheelchair to The Wheelchair Foundation. Suddenly I imagined myself as a future titleholder that could make an impact in the ambulatory disability community since I knew exactly how it was to live life with a motor impairment. In that moment, I realized that Miss America could help me help others, and it suddenly had a deeper purpose in my life.
During that first year, I won the title of Miss Greater Worcester and was able to compete in Miss Massachusetts 2015. The year after, I won the local title of Miss South Shore, and was able to compete in Miss Massachusetts 2016. Diligently working in my local areas to help people in wheelchairs during my years of service has increased my desire to win Miss Massachusetts and continue my work with this population through the Commonwealth. After three years of being involved in this organization, I have realized it is nothing like what one can view on television because there is so much more to it. This pageant system has not only prepared me for my future by helping me find a passion for working with those with motor impairments, but it has also taught me how to get out of bed and do flawless hair and makeup in less than ten minutes! Seriously though, it has helped me become the best version of myself, on and off stage. So you see, Fritz quote has helped me remember that anything is possible even when I am feeling like a dream is out of reach. As humans, we have to remember that things will be thrown at us that we think we might not be strong enough to handle. Get the word “CAN’T” out of your head, because I know that even in the worst of situations, compromising due to lack of believing in yourself isn’t the answer. Hopes and dreams could take years, but if you truly want it, step out of your comfort zone and go get it.