Miss Collinsville 2019
Michella Wilson

Age: 23
School: Oklahoma State University
Talent: Lyrical Dance
Platform: #YoungandEmpowered: Youth Empowerment and Integration

The story that follows is of a 15-year-old girl who became pregnant in high school. She lived in a poor neighborhood where education wasn’t valued and, as a result, dropped out of high school during her sophomore
year. She did the best she could to provide a home, a nurturing environment and basic necessities. Her child and succeeding children were bi-racial and not always accepted in the community in which they lived. To many in their neighborhood they were too black to be white and too white to be black. There were the obvious financial issues, but the children also struggled academically because of the lack of knowledge at home. They were much further behind other children as they started kindergarten. This story is the motivation for my choice of this platform. The reason it’s so personal to me? It’s because it is personal. It is my story. I am the child of the 15-year-old mother.

I can’t specifically tell you when the fire was ignited inside of me, but somewhere during my childhood, I realized that I was made for more. I know why I felt that way—there were people who encouraged me and mentors who stood with me. I knew I wanted more, I just didn’t know how to achieve it. How could I transition my desire for more into the power to get it done? I wasn’t the only one. There was a generation of children just like me who wanted to make an impact and achieve every ounce of our potential.

Today there are more people between the ages of birth and 21 than at any point in our nation’s history. People today come from every walk of life, race, faith and socioeconomic group. The problem is that many of them feel that they are the “only ones” looking for a way to find their power, voice and direction. Youth empowerment programs have been around for years, but most of them are geared toward under privileged communities like mine. This can create a mindset amongst underprivileged students that the degree of their power is only equal to the degree of their financial resources. To the contrary, many students from wealthy families or higher economic backgrounds believe they have power simply because they have unlimited financial resources. Money is not equivalent to a true empowered voice. We must create unification between all socio-economic classes by giving youth from all backgrounds a central location to do this together. More than 325 million people are looking for a way to find their unique individual voices. We must provide them a means to empower them.

To bring awareness to this issue, I’ve created an actionable plan with the hashtag #YoungandEmpowered. Each week I challenge youth from around the United States to not only share their experiences, but to respond in a positive way to their peers’ hardships and views. I post the topic of the week and they upload their responses. My goals are to create unity and provide the tools necessary for young people to use their own social media presence to motivate and empower others in a positive, safe space.

My life experiences taught me that when united, we have a stronger voice. I was not un-empowered because those different from me didn't care. I was un-empowered because my environment didn’t value youth unification. We must stop simply blaming racial and economic differences for our problems and start looking toward a unified front to discover solutions. #YoungandEmpowered is the first step.

Investment in and empowerment of our youth is the message we need to put forth. Over the course of the past year we’ve seen the riots and death in Charleston and Orlando, and to date, there have been 32 school shootings across the nation. Out of all of these tragedies, the only one that brought about any actual change was the Florida school shooting. Why? Because the students of a culturally diverse high school gathered together and made sure their voices were heard. The state of Florida changed their gun laws, despite major push back from the NRA and many of the state’s elected officials. This generation is one filled with power. But, for any power source to accomplish its goal, it must be organized, focused, and directed toward it’s intended target. Through empowerment and integration, and with help from #YoungandEmpowered, we can succeed in achieving positive change in the lives of young people and in the history of our nation.

 
Miss Collinsville's
Outstanding Teen 2019
Eva Reis

School: Classen School of Advanced Studies
Talent: Vocal
Platform:Empowering Diversity

Inclusivity matters. America is a country of diversity, and while in many ways we have become more progressive than ever, we still have so much to overcome. We, as a whole, must work together to make our America a successful America. Change Starts Now!

By 2055, it is estimated the United States will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. It is also currently approximated that almost one in four public school students in the United States come from an immigrant household. As a first generation American whose parents both
immigrated to the United States from Portugal, and whose stepfather is a Chinese American, I certainly feel that it is important to be proud of the factors that make you unique. As quoted from Justine Magazine , Oklahoma's own Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2017 Nicole Jia states the following inspirational message, "Yes, your culture is a part of you, but you are also the actions that you take, the way you treat others, and if you are accepting of others. Coming from a different culture gives you an amazing opportunity to show other people to include others and to be welcoming and accepting of all ethnicities." I want to nurture a love and pride in oneself regardless of ethnicity or religious background. Through an advocacy of empowerment, I strongly believe that our youth have an extraordinary capability to influence the views and consequently the basis’ of equality in our great nation.

In freshman year, I was diagnosed with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS). After being Homebound and hospitalized at the Boston Children’s Hospital, when returning to school I started using a 504 plan, a specialized plan for children who have a disability to ensure their academic success. When researching, I found that while 7.7% of people with disabilities are under the age of 17, most of their peers do not understand what that entails. Having experienced numerous confusions surrounding me and my condition, I also want to use my position to speak out about the importance of inclusivity for people of with all types of disabilities, physical or mental. As an advocate, I have fundraised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, donated my hair three times for Locks of Love, and led a Can Collection Drive at Classen School of Advanced Studies (CSAS) benefiting the Oklahoma Kids Korral. I also participate in the Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA), Black Student Union (BSU), and Asian Club. As one of the many things that I am passionate about, I am working to make our society as inclusive and understanding as possible.

Young people are the future. They deserve to feel welcomed, to be loved, and to go into the world without internal and external prejudice. As Miss Oklahoma’s Outstanding Teen 2019, I will be an advocate for the rights of all people, regardless of social class, ethnicity, gender identity, physical ability, sexual orientation, race, age, or religion. I will educate and encourage others to uphold each other as we continue to strive for a safer America.