“Your new 2011 National American Miss Illinois Junior Teen is Isabelle Hanson!” Hearing for the first time, my title and name, “ME”, being called forth to accept the crown was a dream come true! Undoubtedly, this moment will be a treasured memory, forever dear to my heart. Looking back, I can’t fully describe to you my crowning moment, but maybe the photos of me say it best; with tears streaming down my face, one hand to my heart, and a smile of great joy, I accepted the honor of being chosen to carry out the responsibilities of the Illinois State Jr. Teen Queen.
This past year, performing the duties of a NAMily queen has been eye opening. Volunteering with concerned organizations of varied causes gave me a greater awareness of those in need. I have seen the suffering of many managing life threatening diseases, hungry families not having enough money to put food on the table, scared refugee children, senior citizens’ loneliness, inner-city public school children never experiencing the joy of a music lesson, struggles of disabled veterans, and much more. It was a privilege to support these organizations and share time with those they aid.
Participating in a public appearance with my NAMily sisters at the Kane County Cougar’s Princess Day baseball game impacted my thoughts about myself and who I am. Dads, Grandpas, and friends brought their “princess” to enjoy the baseball game. Signing autographs, posing with the “princesses” for pictures, and talking about NAM highlighted the meaning of striving to make good choices, choosing my actions carefully, and of being the best role model I can for other girls.
Invaluable lessons were taught, as I served others. Working as a volunteer, at the Annual Heier Fishing Derby and BBQ for the Veteran Residents was a day of learning. As the buses pulled in Big Bear Lake parking lot, carrying the veterans of the Chicago North V.A. Hospital, I didn’t know what to expect. Getting to know the veterans, listening to their stories, sharing a barbeque lunch, and fishing beside them was more meaningful than any U.S. history lesson I have sat through. From these men, I learned about courage, honor, and our privilege of freedom.
A special highlight of November was traveling with my parents to Anaheim, California, representing my state at the NAM National Competition. Suddenly my NAMily grew! I met inspiring sisters from many states. Together we toured the surrounding L.A. sights and spent a day at Disneyland, “where dreams really do come true!” Throughout the week we laughed, worked hard, prayed together, and sometimes cried on each other’s shoulders. Honored to have finished in the TOP 10, I left with lasting memories and many new friendships.
As my reigning year is coming to a close, I couldn’t have managed without the help of many special people. Mr. and Mrs. Maples, thank you for the opportunity of being part of NAM and your guiding ways. Miss Breanne, you have been my role model throughout my past three years with NAM. THANK YOU TEAM MAPLES! To the helpful NAM staff, especially Ryan, Bishara, Phil, and Anna, I appreciate your support. To my violin teacher Nan Zhou, my vocal teacher Melissa Cobbs, and piano teacher Stacey DeGaris, thank you for believing in me. To my “second moms”, my Illinois NAMily moms, your smiling ways were invaluable. To my sister queens, Tatum, Peyton, Cassidy, Valerie, Natalie, Kathryn, and Lily, I prayed for sisters like you. I deeply treasure our friendships. Mom and Dad, God blessed me with the gift to call you my parents. I love you both. Thank you God for all you have given me!
To all the contestants, remember dreams do come true if you dare to dream them. Shine on! To my successor, God’s called you on a new journey, one much bigger than you will ever imagine. Rock it!
This past year’s journey has changed me. In meeting so many kind, generous hearted people, I am awed. In the opportunity to serve others, I am humbled. In carrying out my duties as a Queen, I know myself better. In my future, I see a clear direction. For this amazing opportunity, I am forever grateful.
Your 2011-2012 National American Miss
Illinois Junior Teen, Isabelle Hanson