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Yeh reflects on living her dream

Three years ago I had never imagined that I would compete on the Miss America stage and leave as fourth runner up, a talent award recipient and a truly changed person from the experiences I would partake in as Miss Minnesota 2013.

Like many people today, I was once skeptical of the entire pageant concept. I had no interest in walking around in a bikini, preaching world peace or performing my violin merely to showcase my music as my official "talent." However, after a considerable amount of prodding, I decided to give my first pageant a shot, and was surprised to find that it was not what I had expected.
One of the first things I discovered is that the Miss America Organization (MAO) is the largest provider of scholarships for young women in the entire world. I was awarded scholarships as I competed in my very first pageant and continued to receive assistance as I won different areas of competition throughout the past three years.

I began attending ONU in the fall of 2011, but it wasn't until last year that I began to see how my day-to-day life was impacted by my involvement with the MAO. During this past academic year, I was preparing for the Miss Minnesota pageant which took place in June of 2013. One part of the MAO that sets itself apart from other "beauty pageants" is the adoption of the platform concept. Over the past three years, I've been able to focus on an issue that is extremely close to my heart. My older brother Phil has a moderately severe form of autism called pervasive developmental disorder.
Phil and I were never very close when we were younger, but I began to see how I could be a voice for him and others impacted by autism as a future Miss Minnesota. This personal platform of mine carried itself over to ONU's campus when I decided to join Alpha Xi Delta. Their philanthropic partner, Autism Speaks, is the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization in the world, and I had the honor of serving as the 2013 Philanthropy Chair.

The MAO also strengthened my public speaking, communication, organization and leadership skills over the course of the past year, sending me into the Miss Minnesota pageant with the confidence to be a great representative of the state of Minnesota. It integrated different areas of my life that were previously separate; my music, my brother and my desire to use my talents to serve other people finally fit together. It was a true honor to have won all areas of competition including talent, swimsuit and interview along with the title of Miss Minnesota in June 2013.
The Miss America pageant occurred during the first two weeks of September. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. It was a very grueling two weeks, but I had come to Atlantic City as prepared as I could be. As a classically trained violinist of 16 years, one of my goals was to win the talent competition. I had started playing when I was 4-years-old and studied at the University of Minnesota for six years throughout middle school and high school.

Although I had competed in many competitions, I found my true joy when I played for other people at church, in my community and for other special events. Giving back to others through my music helped me realize that our skills and abilities are of no significance unless we use them for others.

I left Miss America with absolutely no regrets. I am forever thankful for my family, friends, educators, mentors and communities in both Minnesota and Ohio for their support, encouragement and love throughout my journey to Miss America. A person is a person because of other people. Thank you for supporting a fellow Polar Bear, and I look forward to visiting ONU soon!

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