The Do's and Don'ts of Packing for Miss Indiana Week

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Editor’s Note: With more than two decades of pageant experience, our board members compiled this list to be a resource to the young ladies competing during that fabulous week in Zionsville, Indiana.

For the hotel:

DO:

Bring all of your hair styling tools. Blow dryer, wands, straighteners, etc. The hotel bathrooms will have a hair dryer already, but bring your own in case your roommate leaves her at home so you aren’t stuck with just one! Bring a case of bottled water to keep in your room along with a variety of salty and sweet snacks for you and your roomie to share. (Granola bars, mini candy bars, almonds, etc.) If you tend to get cold easily, bring extra pairs of fuzzy socks and sweatshirts.

DON’T:

Don’t feel compelled to bring all of your electronics! If you can survive with just your iPhone and an iPod to listen to your talent music, consider leaving the laptop behind.

With so many accessories around, it can be easy to misplace your things. Also, think about leaving expensive jewelry at home. Your time can get really hectic in the mornings and it would be a shame to misplace something like a beloved pair of diamond earrings.

For your “go between bag”:

DO:

For sure bring your favorite tote bag to fill with your crown box, extra bobby pins or hair clips, autograph pad(s), and pen(s) for going back and forth between appearances, the hotel, and the performing arts center. Keep some of that bottled water and a few of those snacks from your room in case you need a pick me up between events. Throw in loose powder, lipstick/gloss, oil blotters, gum/mints, extra contacts/solution, and hand sanitizer too.

DON’T:

Be sure to have toiletries on hand, yes, but you don’t need full-sized bottles – they take up too much room! Grab a few travel sized bottles of hairspray, dry shampoo, and even a mini hairbrush so you can leave space in your bag for larger items.

For backstage:

DO:

All competition wardrobe clearly labeled with your first and last name and contestant number

Anything you may need for your talent

Three-drawer cart to keep your small items organized like jewelry, shoes, etc

Thank you notes and pen(s) to write to Miss Indiana sponsors

Makeup/false eyelashes/eye lash glue

Robe/slippers/flip flops

Hair styling tools/hand held mirror

Hairspray/dry shampoo/bobby pins/other hair accessories

Double sided sticky tape/other clothing adhesive

Safety pins/duct tape/bandages/pain reliever

Bottled Starbucks coffee if you need caffeine throughout the day

Bottled water/personal snacks (Hostesses WILL have these for you)

Body lotion/baby wipes/hand sanitizer

Spanx/other undergarments

iPod/iPod charger/headphones

Extension cord(s)

DON’T:

Cell phones or cameras

Scholarship: Forever Relevant

With the end of the school year wrapping up just a few weeks ago, scholarship and the role it plays in our everyday lives has been heavy on my mind. Going to all these open houses of my senior students, and helping with my sister’s graduation plans has made me even more grateful for the opportunity to play such a hands on role in the lives of our youth.

I have seen first-hand how education is so vital to success in our society today. Scholarship is one of the four points on the Miss America crown and that is just one of the many reasons the Miss America Organization will continue to be relevant within today’s society.

Unfortunately, many of the youth I work with have a hard time figuring out where to go and how to navigate their educational ventures into their futures. That has been one of my biggest roles as a teacher is also being a mentor for the students that walk through my classroom.

It has been one of the greatest joys to see a student find a passion for education, even when it is not just in my class. It has been even more exciting knowing I have done it with them too as I am continuing learning while I work on getting my master’s degree.

I have gained such an appreciation for scholarship and that is why I am so glad to be able to spread that message as both an educator and titleholder. When others ask me about the Miss America Organization, the first thing I mention is the amazing scholarship opportunities it offers for women.

In fact, MAO is the number one scholarship provider for women in the world. How awesome is that! It is empowering to be a part of an organization with a focus on learning and making others better. This is just one of the many reasons to be proud of being a titleholder.

Service: My Favorite Point

It has been a while since I have written! I had a different direction for this post but my heart had something else in mind. As I have been preparing for Miss Indiana very diligently, I have made a promise to myself to hold true to the four points of the crown that have been a huge drive, other than my family and I’s dream, behind my dedication to the program for so many years. So for the next couple of blog posts, I am going to share with you all each point of the crown- style, success, service and scholarship- and what each point means to me.

First I am going to start with my favorite point, service. Service has always been my favorite point because I love everything about philanthropy. I also love that the point of service allows for each person to be involved in whatever they are passionate about. In my last post, I shared a lot about my platform and my aunt. But before my aunt passed, my platform revolved around a program called Pass the Pom at my high school.

The program was self-created and a way to raise, money and awareness of the American Cancer Society. At the time of Pass the Pom’s creation, my cousin was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease. In a very shortened explanation, my cousin Kyle is unable to produce the steroids the average person’s body naturally produces.

He went into an Addisonian crisis and we are very lucky he is alive because nobody knew he had this disease until then. One of the biggest causes of the disease is cancer. Thankfully, that was not the case for Kyle, but I still wanted to help others in similar situations who may be faced with the scary cancer diagnoses. I loved this platform, but after graduating it was hard to stay involved as much as I would have liked.

I struggled at times because I did not have that strong sense of service afterwards that I had loved sharing so much before. It really took me until my aunt passed and I went through so much for me to find something I was truly passionate about. It started by helping with local fit events in my area like 5k’s and Bike Rides.

Then I decided to start blogging about my appearances and experiences with my platform. Now I am a spokesperson for the 54,000 member organization, the Obesity Action Coalition. I also have teamed up locally with the Indiana Medical Weight Loss Center.  It is truly amazing how my platform has grown, and really how much I have grown from this organization too.

For me, service is about putting others before yourself. I always knew that was one of your duties as a Miss America titleholder on a local, state and national level. But I do not think I truly understood what it meant to be completely selfless until I started teaching this year.

Being from a very poverty ridden area and school has really opened my eyes to what is important in life. I love that my students often feel comfortable with sharing their lives, both good and bad with me. It is not easy though sometimes knowing their true potential may never be met because of their home lives or backgrounds.

As a teacher, I try to exemplify service every day by reminding my students of their value but also the value of education. When I walk into my classroom every day and see their smiling faces, I am reminded of why I am working so hard for my dream.

The point of service on the Miss America crown is where this journey for me started and that love for service will never change, no matter what happens in June or beyond. This is why I have made it a goal to do as many appearances as possible. Since my crowning, I have had at least one if not more every weekend. 

Service is just one way for me to help give back to my community and organization that has shaped me into the person I am today.

 

Dr. Braff and her husband Lanny from the Indiana Medical Weight Loss and Wellness Center in Richmond met with me to talk about helping their center and promoting my platform.

Dr. Braff and her husband Lanny from the Indiana Medical Weight Loss and Wellness Center in Richmond met with me to talk about helping their center and promoting my platform.

Saving Lives by donating blood at the Ethan Cheesman Memorial Blood Drive!

Saving Lives by donating blood at the Ethan Cheesman Memorial Blood Drive!

Hanging out with Charlie Cardinal at Ball State University at the No More Obstacles Challenge Course with the Exercise Science Club.

Hanging out with Charlie Cardinal at Ball State University at the No More Obstacles Challenge Course with the Exercise Science Club.

My certificate of Congressional Recognition.  So humbled to have received this from Rep. Luke Messer!

My certificate of Congressional Recognition.  So humbled to have received this from Rep. Luke Messer!

It Finally Happened

“Hi my name is Lyndsea Burke and I am your Miss Spirit of Indiana 2017”. These are words I have been sure to say multiple times since my crowning just two weeks ago. To say that I am excited to be Miss Spirit of Indiana would definitely be an understatement.  I literally have been working for this title for the last 6 years. 

After nearly 50 local pageants, multiple talents, a lot of hard work, and the right timing by God- I finally had my crowning moment on March 26th 2017. Boy was I emotional. Every picture and video of that night almost brings me to tears again because I feel like everything I have worked so hard for is finally coming into place. So you may be asking yourself, why did I keep competing for that long? To understand where my passion for the Miss America Organization began, we have to go back about 20 years.

It all started when I was around 3 years old. My Aunt Jody and my mom made it a tradition to watch the Miss America Pageant on television every year. At first I just loved the gorgeous gowns and to play “beauty shop”, which just translated to Jody doing my hair and makeup. That is where OUR dream began though. She told me every year, “That will be you someday, representing Indiana”. As I got older, I learned so much more about how these amazing women were so much more than just “princesses”.

I educated myself on how the program is the number one scholarship provider for women in the world. I became fascinated with the platform requirement and the opportunities to give back to the community. More than anything, I wanted to learn to become a well-rounded individual within the Miss America Organization.

Fast-forward to my junior year of high school- that’s when I started really working to take this dream to fruition. I started competing in the Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen program.

My aunt unfortunately was facing complications as a result of her obesity, and was unable to see me compete, even when I did make it to the Miss Indiana stage as a teen. But she was always more than supportive. After my time at Miss Indiana that year, I aged out and went into the Miss division. As you can imagine, things get a bit more intense as your job title requires different things from you. Not to mention that being in college while competing is a whole other conversation in itself. For two years I was soul searching.

A little lost on where to go and not placing very often made it hard to know if this would really happen. But then things took an even more unexpected turn for the worst. At the end of my freshman year of college, I received a terrible phone call from my mom letting me know that my Aunt Jody passed away. While we knew her health was not great, nothing could have prepared us for her to pass in just her early 40s.

That is where I became even more lost than before.  I gained a lot of weight, I was depressed and just was bitter about never getting to say goodbye. But then it hit me. I will always believe that God had an intervention with me one day and reminded me that Jody would not have wanted me to live this way. She would have wanted to see me thrive and work to live out our dream together. That is where I found my voice and a new platform centered on helping those like her.

My platform is called Obesity: Let’s CHANGE the Stigma. The focus is on Creating Hope ANd Generating Encouragement. After watching Jody struggle with her obesity for years, I often saw people judge her for the way she looked. They did not know that she had gone to doctors to try to get help, but the solutions were not easy.

They did not know that she worked in an adult day care caring for individuals with disabilities and had custody of an amazing woman with Down syndrome. Everyone was so fixated on the outside but never took a look at her on the inside. That is why I work to educate others on how hurtful words do not encourage others to get healthy. Instead, those who are suffering from obesity need to have a support system to let them know we are here to help and cheer them on while working to be healthy.

At the same time, I am a high school art teacher who is dedicated to also spread the word on healthy living and obesity stigmas to my students and the youth across the country. I truly believe that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders and that is why I work to give them the tools to be successful in all facets of their lives.

So yes, it finally happened! After many pageants later and a lot of hard work, I finally received the title I had worked so hard for. As I age out this year, I have lots of appearances, partnerships and memories to make up for. But the way I see it, God gave me this opportunity at a time he knew I could give everything I could, and that is more than okay with me. I cannot wait to share my journey with everyone as I work toward achieving my dreams.

 

Lyndsea

 

Enjoying the Journey

In nearly two days, the journey to the crown becomes just a bit closer to reality.

I cannot begin to express the massive flurry of emotions that continually flood my mind in preparation of this incredible journey. Thankfulness, gratitude, humility, excitement, and so many more feelings continue to skirt across my brain as I've prepared for this week ahead. I could not be more thrilled for this opportunity.

However, when faced with the imminent reality that this journey is on the fast track to its destination, my heart sinks. 

The past several weeks have been exhilarating, and to prepare well for what is truly the job of my dreams, I've had to prepare in absolutely every area of my life. From my health and fitness, to my communication skills, to my acute awareness of the happenings in our world, to networking and marketing, and most importantly, steadying my heart before the Lord, I've been on my a-game. 

So a huge part of me dejects the thought of this preparation ending. But moreover, my heart is filled with excitement at the big goal ahead, that daily becomes more tangible and within reach. 

In preparation for my time in Zionsville, I've truly learned so many essential grown-up skills. I've become a pro at connecting and reaching out to businesses in hopes to create new partnerships and sponsorships, starting from the ground up with Miss Spirit being an entirely brand new organization. I've continually worked hard to make appearances developing my platform, and gotten my hands dirty within the non profit sector. I've improved at solidifying and articulating my core beliefs and communicating them in a way that is loving and truthful. I've learned to connect with audiences of all ages, and sought to understand people better. I've become increasingly interested in social media marketing and worked hard with my directors to develop my own personal brand. I've had to make difficult, quick, and impulsive decisions by the seam of my pants when things have not gone according to plan. I've grown in ways that I did not know I needed to, and in countless ways I never expected. To anyone that's questioned the portrayal of pageants and those who compete in the media - I assure you that they are far from the picture that is depicted. Never have I grown so much in such a short period of life than I have from my involvement in the Miss America Organization.

But this growth I've undergone has not been limited simply to developing interpersonal skills. Through this season, the Lord has strengthened my faith more than ever before, reminding me some of the most crucial lessons that I know I will continue to learn and relearn every day throughout the rest of my life. I've learned to live each day at a time, managing what I can in the moment, trusting that tomorrow will take care of itself. I've had to come to terms with what my priorities are - and what God's are - and what minuscule tasks prevent me from attaining my dreams and serving others. I've had to quickly recognize which areas of my life were lacking, intentionally deciding what I could commit myself to, and when to simply trust in the Lord, recognizing that I'm human and I cannot do absolutely everything. Most importantly, I've learned to cling to my Savior in every season in every circumstance, learning to trust Him even when I'm wandering in the middle of the lowest valley. 

Never did I expect the Lord to provide this opportunity in the midst of a very trying season of life, but I'm so thankful for His provision over every moment. This organization has been everything I never knew I wanted or needed. And no matter what the outcome is in just 10 days from today, I'll never forget the incredible experiences and memories I've made thus far throughout my journey. And I'll never forget those who have touched me along the way, as I continue to try and love others the way so many have loved me. 

Walk in love,

Ashley

Miss Indiana Kick-Off

What an EXHILARATING journey it has been so far as I continue to prepare for state! To give you an idea of the momentum that's happened since I was crowned 7 short weeks ago, I want to share with you all the exciting opportunities I've had over the past several weeks.

  • Miss America Day of Service: My birthday! I was beyond THRILLED to help out at the Carmel Marathon, and help distribute medals to our winners. Thanks to your help and generosity, I met my fundraising goal within less than 24 hours.  

 

  • HIIT Class: My MAO sisters and I got an incredible workout in with one of our state sponsors, Core Pilates and Fitness. What a workout! If you're looking for a way to burn fat for 36 hours and be sore for 4 days straight, I highly recommend it!

 

  • Miss Indiana Luncheon: I was humbled to have the chance to hear several former Miss Indiana's speak about their year and the impact it had on their lives. How thankful I am to have met so many wonderful women!

 

  • Miss Indiana Kick off: My placement in the Miss Indiana competition has been chosen! I will be contestant #5 in the Alpha Group. On Wednesday night I will compete in onstage question, Thursday night swim and gown, and Friday night talent. The preliminaries, and Saturday night finals, will be held June 15th-18th at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center. To watch me compete for the job of Miss Indiana 2016 in June, you can purchase tickets HERE

 

  • Miracle Bowl: Again, YOUR generosity enabled me to reach my goal in less than 24 hours, again. That's AMAZING and I'm so thankful! My directors and my mom had an incredible time bowling as Indiana's Spirit Squad. What a fun opportunity!

 

  • Campaign 2016: I'm so incredibly passionate about increasing voter awareness, and I watched every debate and interview to prepare for my right to vote in the Indiana Primary earlier this month. I was humbled to have met Ms. Cruz and Ms. Fiorina here locally in Fishers and speak with them about Senator Cruz's candidacy, in hopes to be a more educated voter. Every vote counts - if you missed registration in time to vote in the primaries, register HERE so that your voice can be heard in November!

 

 

  • Indian's Game/Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana Recruitment Event: I was able to represent my platform, Big Brother's Big Sisters of America, in honor of their 100 Men in 50 Days recruitment campaign. The campaign ended with an event at an Indianapolis Indian's game to promote and celebrate the cause! The Indianapolis Indians are huge supporters of BBBS Central Indiana, and they offered a summer fun package to all Big Brothers that signed up during the campaign. They EXCEEDED their recruitment goal and I was humbled to take part in the event and continue my goal of mentoring awareness!

Well, there you have it. Each of these events occurred over the short span of 2 weeks as your 2016 Miss Spirit of Indiana, and this is a snapshot of what the life of an excited titleholder looks like! Can you believe that? More updates to come over the course of this busy pageant prep month! 

Cherishing every aspect of this busy season, and thankful you're here to experience it with me.

Walk in love, 

Ashley

P.S. Here is my official headshot for Miss Indiana 2016!!

 

 

5 Reasons Pageants Are Important In My Life

5 Reasons Pageants Are Important In My Life

As I've become increasingly involved in the Miss America Organization, I've been met with both uplifting but also inquiring responses of why a girl "like me" would get involved in a program like this. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma associated with pageantry on a much larger scale than just MAO - one that thankfully my sisters and dear friends involved also recognize. As we seek to shatter the various stereotypes associated with the program, I want to share with you just a few of the many reasons I am so heavily involved in the pageant system . Without further ado, here are five of the biggest reasons that I'm such a proponent of pageantry.

1. Pageants Teach People Skills

Throughout my involvement in pageantry just over a year, I have drastically grown and refined the way in which I communicate with others. From verbal to nonverbal communication, to writing and networking with professionals, and confidently but truthfully becoming more of the woman I want to be, pageants have shaped me and stretched me in the ways I connect with others. Specifically, in the Miss America system, contestants compete in a nine minute press conference style interview in which they must quickly solidify intelligent answers to controversial questions. Preparing for interview alone has enabled me to become comfortable responding to all types of questions, and connect better with any audience that is in front of me. I've learned how to seek out sponsors, connect with business owners, and networking techniques, all of which are life skills that are necessary far beyond the realm of pageantry.

2. Pageants Build Confidence by Empowering Women

Never before have I seen more confident women than in the scope of pageantry. The women that I have met who compete are some of the most intelligent, inspiring, hardworking, kind and selfless people I have ever met. They rock the stage with elegance and poise, and conduct themselves off stage with that same grace. Pageants allow young women not only a creative outlet to display the gifts they've been given, and they also connect girls with one another to love and cheer each other on. Directors and board members are dedicated volunteers, and continually check in on the lives of contestants helping them to be the best version of themselves as possible. Pageants infuse confidence into the lives of women by giving opportunities that are unique to each system, and creating mentoring opportunities throughout the system.

3. Pageants Provide Scholarships

Did you know that the Miss America program is one of the world's largest scholarship providers for young women? This fact sparked my initial interest to compete, though my reasons for competing now have drastically expanded beyond scholarship funds (but they are an added bonus!) Pageants encourage women to pursue their dreams, and provide a financial means of doing so. Countless women are able to graduate debt free and pursue their career of choice, which for many competitors may have been impossible to do without this assistance. 

4. Pageants Establish Positive, Long-Lasting Relationships

Although there is much negative publicity of pageant girls being catty and self-centered, my experience could not be further from that statement. Throughout my time competing, I have been surrounded by like-minded women who seek to serve their community and fulfill high aspirations they have set for themselves. These women surround, encourage, and uplift one another, and are always willing to go the extra mile for the girl who needs something. I'm so thankful for the friendships I've made with my fellow contestants and directors through this process, considering I never would have developed without our mutual involvement in pageantry. 

5. Pageants Serve the Community for the Greater Good

One of the most essential aspects of pageantry is being an ambassador for the community. Being a local titleholder in the Miss America program is a job of its own, providing each contestant with a platform to make a difference. A major emphasis in pageant programs is continuing to serve others in every appearance and opportunity, valuing them more highly than oneself. The crown is simply a tool to aspire toward greater things. 

These five reasons are so fundamental to the motivation behind why a girl "like me" is involved in pageantry. I'm empowered, intelligent, dedicated to bettering my community, preparing myself for the future, and a pageant girl.

Walk in love,

Ashley

The Journey to Miss Indiana

Words cannot express how honored I am to represent the Miss Indiana Organization as the 2016 Miss Spirit of Indiana. From the moment I was crowned, I knew that this title has begun the start of an exciting, exhilarating, and incredible journey that lies ahead. I have learned so much through this process already, but know over the course of the next several months, I will feel that looking back I knew very little. 

With the state pageant being just over two months away, the momentum instantly propelled me, as well as my AMAZING directors Paige and Jeniece, forward (I will seriously never be able to thank them enough the more we continue throughout this process!). Our team is diligently preparing appearances, training opprotunities, community service events, and so much more. Though it's only been roughly two weeks from the moment I became grafted into this organization, I am thrilled to say we have already made so much progress as I prepare for the state competition in June. I'll keep it a surprise for now, but I can say that I am so very excited to share my talent with you at Miss Indiana :)

As my thoughts race and my heart pounds with all the exciting news I have to share, I find it fitting to thank every person who has supported me and encouraged me so far. To your facebook and instagram words of encouragement, your contributions to help me raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, and most importantly - your coveted prayers - I can truly say that I have never felt more loved, encouraged, and surrounded by community in this season of life. Thank you for supporting me and walking with me over the course of this journey. I could never have made it to where I am today without your help, and the Lord's hand upon my every step of this journey. 

To those of you who may wonder why I'm competing - my heart and passion for the Miss America Organization has only continued to grow as I become increasingly involved. Coming from someone who used to be somewhat critical of pageants, I can truly say that my eyes have been opened and perspective of what this organization means to me and so many others has completely shifted. You see, my involvement in the program began with a quest for scholarships, but quickly it has evolved into far more. Scholarships have simply become just added bonus to the service opportunities and friendships I've made through the process. The Miss America Organization provides numerous connections to mentor and encourage others. Relationships with other contestants, board members, and directors. Chances to serve the local, state, and national community. Opportunities to make a difference in this world, one person at a time.

I will never be able to say it enough, but this journey is so much bigger than just me. This is not a quest for a crown, but a continuous expedition to grow as a person, and help inspire others to do the same. Every aspect of this journey is a part of something bigger.

Walk in love,

Ashley