One local Mayorâ€™s four simple words inspired former Miss Lincoln County Apple Queen and North Lincoln graduate Sara Jolley to establish a pageant platform that crowned her Miss Gardner-Webb 2012 at the end of January.
While Jolley, a senior Public Relations major and double Spanish and Religion minor at Gardner-Webb, doesnâ€™t consider herself a pageant pro, since sheâ€™s only competed in three â€“ and thatâ€™s if you count her first one in the third grade — sheâ€™s enjoyed them for the character growth theyâ€™ve produced.
“The Lord uses them to teach me a lot of things about Him and who I am,” she said.
In 2008, Jolley won the Apple Queen title during the areaâ€™s annual Apple Festival, sharing a title that her sister received a decade earlier.
“It was surreal wearing the same crown I had once seen on her head when I was a little girl,” she said. “I had always looked up to the Apple Queen â€¦ and knowing that I could be that role model for another little girl was priceless.”
Jolleyâ€™s passion for others was evident during the Miss Gardner-Webb pageant when she presented an original monologue for her talent. The topic focused on a friend who had recently lost her mother.
“Sheâ€™s one of those people you may not know for a long time but instantly walks into your life and makes an impression,” Jolley said.
In addition, the Lincolnton native focused her platform on helping discouraged children.
Jolley knew she wanted to enhance studentsâ€™ self-esteem after watching Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx speak a couple of years ago on “The Psychology of Failure” in the local school system.
“For whatever reason,” she said, “a child goes into a task or assignment already defeated â€¦ they give up without trying.”
She soon began volunteering in her motherâ€™s second-grade classroom, where she reached out to a particular young boy who had been struggling to read.
“I told this child how smart he was and how capable he was of doing something great,” Jolley said. “I didnâ€™t do anything particularly special â€¦ I told the truth.”
When she returned home to visit the student during a college break, she noticed that his confidence had grown and that heâ€™d passed a number of tests.
“We can make a difference in childrenâ€™s lives,” she said. “It starts with building them up and letting them know you believe in them.”
Of the 20 students who applied to compete in the Gardner-Webb pageant, the school chose 12 women who had positive academic and behavioral standing, Jolley said.
She noted that the interview process has been the most challenging part of pageants, particularly knowing that strangers are judging her in such a short amount of time.
“Thatâ€™s terrifying,” she said. “That part forces you to be comfortable in your own skin. How are you going to win over judges who definitely donâ€™t know you, if you donâ€™t know you? You just have to be yourself and let God handle the rest.”
Jolley dispelled many pageant misnomers including the idea that theyâ€™re costly and strictly for “girly girls.”
“Pageants are for any girl interested in making a difference,” she said.
Jolley noted that she does consider herself a “girly girl” and is “100-percent OK with that.”
In addition, she noted that the competition only cost her $17 since she borrowed friendsâ€™ clothing and used other items she owned.
“I recommend anyone to try doing a pageant,” she said. “You donâ€™t have to spend a lot of money â€¦ Itâ€™s feasible.”
Jolley graduates in May and is currently looking for a job in the PR field but said sheâ€™ll be grateful to serve in any available position.
“Letâ€™s face it,” she said, “Iâ€™m not picky, and Iâ€™m willing to do anything.”