Taylor Clark, Miss Kansas 2021, appears March 2, 2022, before the Senate Education Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Miss Kansas, Taylor Clark, is a senior at Kansas State University majoring in music education.
Greetings from around the state! I’m Taylor Clark, Miss Kansas 2021.
In this unique job, I get to travel Kansas and meet people from all areas of the state. I’ve traveled by car, train, and Highway Patrol car (thanks to Kansas Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Office) in Kansas, but I have also ventured to Florida, Oklahoma, Indiana, Tennessee, Connecticut, and just recently returned from Alaska.
Throughout my journeys I have met and visited with some special Kansans, sharing about music and safe driving, and sampling some of the best school lunches in the state.
Perhaps what I most enjoy about being Miss Kansas is visiting schools. My career goal is to become a high school band teacher. One conversation that sticks out to me was after an elementary school presentation. I had just made music with the students and performed a drum solo when a fourth-grade boy approached me.
He asked if people looked at me differently now that I am Miss Kansas.
I answered yes. The crown has given me opportunities, partnerships, and relationships that would have never been possible previously. This is because the job of Miss Kansas has allowed me to grow, and I continue to grow, into the best version of myself.
My journey begins
On July 11, 2021, I competed and won the title of Miss Kansas in Pratt, just a few miles from my hometown of St. John. Since age 5 I have been involved with the Miss Kansas Organization, first as a Sunflower Princess. I was the youngest participant in the summer of 2005, the first year of the princess program.
Even at age 5, I met some amazing women who were passionate and excited about helping others and achieving their educational goals. They were all wonderful role models, and at the end of the week I saw a new Miss Kansas being crowned. From that day on I knew I wanted to compete, and hopefully become Miss Kansas someday.
I continued participating in the mentoring program and stepped up into the next age category for my first competition, Miss Kansas’ Outstanding Teen (MKSOTeen). Once again, I was greeted with mentors and role models who inspired me to be more confident in myself. Each year I competed for MKSOTeen I learned and grew, and on my fifth and final try, in 2017, I won the title.
I had a wonderful experience representing our state at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, where I received the non-finalist talent and outstanding instrumentalist awards. The experience confirmed that I still wanted to be Miss Kansas.
The big contest
After taking some time off to get started with my music education degree at Kansas State University, I was ready to compete for the job of Miss Kansas.
After a two-year tear as my local title of Miss Augusta due to the pandemic, the competition was held in July of 2021, and I was named the winner. This landed me a spot to compete at the 100th Anniversary Miss America Competition.
It was a dream come true to not only become Miss Kansas, but to have the honor of competing at such a historic anniversary year. The competition was held in Connecticut, and all the candidates were there for 10 days leading up to the final competition. There were interviews, preliminary competitions, special anniversary celebrations and many opportunities for connecting with fellow candidates from across the country.
While in Connecticut, I was thrilled to compete and show the judges and audience the work I had put in to prepare for that moment. I also met 50 other young women who were driven, intelligent, and fiercely kind. We all became fast friends and still talk each day.
In fact, last month I traveled to Alaska to celebrate Miss America, Emma Broyles’, homecoming celebration. Emma is not only the 100th Anniversary Miss America, but the first Miss America from Alaska.
Sharing and brainstorming
Being able to share and brainstorm ideas with like-minded women was very motivational.
Many young women competing had completed not only their undergraduate degrees, but their graduate degrees and beyond. While at the competition I earned scholarship dollars that will enable me to do the same. Throughout my time in the Outstanding Teen and Miss programs, I have earned $20,400 in scholarships.
Returning home to Kansas, I am ready to tackle the remainder of my time in this role. Each day looks a little different while on the job as Miss Kansas.
Nearly every day I travel to a new corner of the state representing the organization, while also making connections, serving Kansas communities, sharing about my social impact initiative “Sound for Common Ground: Music Connects,” performing, and speaking to various groups.
As a future educator, school presentations and assemblies are a highlight of my job. I’ve met students of all ages at school presentations and assemblies.
You never know where you might see me next, but if you would like to have Miss Kansas at your next event or learn more about competing, you can visit www.misskansas.org, email [email protected] or follow Miss Kansas on social media @missamericaks.
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