As I enter my final weeks 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 Miss Middlesex County, Chelsea Vuong.
My name is Chelsea, and I am Miss Middlesex County 2017! What a nice way to take a moment to reflect back on my journey so far through writing a guest blog (thank you so much Alyssa!). I have been blessed with incredible parents who love me unconditionally. Both of my parents are immigrants from Asia, and have instilled the values of hard work, education, and persistence in me from a young age. I have seen my dad wake up as early as 3 a.m. to go to work, and my mom balance a full time job while studying towards a Bachelor’s Degree. Yet, they still had time to take me to school, ballet lessons, dance lessons, and basketball practice (I was an athlete….keyword: was). With the upbringing that I have had, reflecting back, I can say how appreciative I was to be surrounded in such a nurturing, loving, and motivational environment.
While it may be true that hard work, good grades, and a determined mindset are keys to success, there was one major component in my early teenage years that I was missing: communication skills. Yes, I was afraid of giving even a one-minute speech in front of my class. More importantly, I was afraid of speaking to people I didn’t know. I didn’t have the confidence or courage to hold my own ground- and that was when pageants saved me.
Pre-teen Chelsea: After I got my braces off (yay!) What about pageants saved me, you may ask? Well, pageants are truly a competition, hobby, or special event where you learn life skills. The interview process may be intimidating, but through constant preparation and facing your fears heads-on, the fears slowly diminish. In addition, when you capture the title and go on your year of service, the opportunities that arise with meeting volunteers, children, parents, and community members allow for more practice in developing communication skills. Reflecting back on my first pageant, what became a shock and nervous breakout in front of my mom (who told me a week before the pageant that I was competing- yes, a week!) is now pure gratitude for her actions.
I never knew the power communication skills could bring until I became further invested in pageants, especially the Miss America Organization. My first realization came when I spoke to a first grade elementary class at the age of 13. As I spoke about my platform, I became increasingly aware of the students’ engagement with my words, and afterwards, their willingness to participate in my discussion and fundraiser. In another aspect, I have been able to further my educational pursuits- attending my dream college of Harvard University, leading several clubs, and securing multiple internships. With the foundation of prioritizing education and the ability to communicate my thoughts effectively, I have been grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. However, the journey in getting there wasn’t at all easy, and came at the expense of realizing some of my weaknesses. Coming from a low-funded public high school, I saw the differences that many well-funded private and public schools had from us. In fact, lower-income students are 30% less likely to enroll in college than higher-income students. Through experiencing opportunities of networking, contagious educational energy, and academic rigor from college, it made me personally attached to this problem. Each child has every potential to thrive and create change in this world. By building a solid foundation and encouraging their drive, children will be more likely to develop goals and build a passion. In order to create a better future, we must start investing time and energy into the future generations who will be the leaders of tomorrow. That is why I believe it is important to empower children to succeed through mentorship. My perspective on this situation has been driven by my personal connection with the topic, as well as my fond for philosophy. Since taking a philosophy class sophomore year of high school, I have been taking a new approach at viewing life. I have noticed that life is short. My day goes by in the blink of an eye! Sometimes when things don’t go according to plan, there is a reason for it; maybe it just wasn’t meant to be or there is another opportunity waiting for you. I share these words with you because when I was younger, I was so focused on the mishaps in life, that I forgot what it meant to be truly happy. Trust me, it took a while to find out (and I am still finding out) little ways to make a certain situation a little brighter, what activities truly make me happy (pageants and helping youth!), and embracing the time spent with each individual. I believe that these three components help to not only enjoy your life a little bit more, but also to find yourself. It isn’t then until you truly find fulfillment and awareness of the time you have on Earth.
“In a race between Lion & Deer, many times Deer wins because Lion runs for food & Deer for life. Purpose is more important than need.” Thank you for following through my journey of how I became involved in pageants, why I chose my platform, and my recent life lessons. Wow, what a transition of topics- yay for writing skills!