GRAND RAPIDS — Hundreds of colorful balloons filled the gym of the Steil Boys and Girls Club on Thursday. It was a St. Patrick’s Day to remember for the kids in attendance because one of the luckiest 18-year-olds in the country, Miss America Teresa Scanlan, was making a visit.
After being crowned the youngest Miss America in 78 years, Scanlan has been in Grand Rapids all week visiting the Amway headquarters, a main sponsor of the Miss America organization. She took a moment from her 20,000 mile-a-month travel schedule to speak to the children about achieving their dreams and having self-confidence.
Thursday’s event was a way for Scanlan to use her title to represent Amway and speak to children about what she hopes will be her strongest message during her reign as Miss America.
“She (Scanlan) has such high aspirations and goals in life, and she has already accomplished one of those. So what better person to talk to youth about following you dreams and goals?” said Amway spokeswoman Lindsay Pott.
Scanlan was homeschooled most of her life, but in her junior year of high school began attending public school, where she confronted peer pressure and obstacles that most kids face during adolescence.
Cesar Vargas, 17, was one of the kids on hand at the Boy and Girls Club. He received the Youth of the Year award and scholarship for the second year in a row. Vargas started by volunteering and helping the kids with homework. He believes in the message Scanlan is spreading and wants to follow in the same footsteps by creating an environment where kids can dream their biggest possible dreams.
“She sets a really good example for these kids to see that anything can be accomplished. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, anything can be done,” Vargas said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from.”
The children worked on an activity with Scanlan that allowed them to express the dreams they want to accomplish. They were all asked to write their dreams on a piece of paper that would be attached to a balloon that they would later release.
The kids wrote dreams of being a doctor, an NBA star, a teacher, a boxer, a home builder, and even Mr. America.
“Everybody is different and when you’re growing up, you have to find those things that you are good at and that are unique and special to you,” Scanlan said.
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