All pageantry aside, Miss Teen spreads serious message - The Waunakee Tribune: Local

All pageantry aside, Miss Teen spreads serious message - The Waunakee Tribune: Local

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All pageantry aside, Miss Teen spreads serious message

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 7:15 am

When people think of pageants, they often think of gowns, swim suits and cute talent shows.

But one Waunakee teenager is using the experience not only to build confidence and poise but to relay a serious message to her younger peers.

McKenna Collins was crowned Miss Southern Wisconsin Outstanding Teen on April 7; on June 21, she will compete for the state Miss Outstanding Teen title, qualifying her for the Miss America Teen Competition.

Since entering the competition, Collins has developed a platform on cyberbullying to share with middle school students, a subject she is all too familiar with.

“With the growing use of technology, I felt it was appropriate to share my story with students and help them use social media in a positive way,” she said.

Collins shares with students her own experience last fall. Through the use of Twitter and text messages, fellow high school students were sending negative messages about her.

“It took a while for me to figure out how I should stand up for myself,” Collins said. “I took it to the principal right away.”

But it wasn’t an easy decision, Collins said, because she didn’t know what sort of backlash she would face.

Her mother, Kristan Collins, remembered the cyberbullying occurred just hours before the family learned McKenna’s father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

“Her world just fell apart,” Kristan said.

McKenna Collins encourages young people to take serious problems to an adult and says cyberbullying is prevalent in high school.

“I see it everywhere I look,” she said.

Many fellow students have been victims, and now that she is sharing her story, they are approaching her with their experiences, she said.

While the Miss Teen platform is serious, Collins motivation to enter the pageant was less so. It all began when she was unable to attend prom.

“I started looking at researching ways to get my dream dress,” Collins said.

A conflict with work kept her from attending prom. Collins is a professional dancer with the Madison Ballet, and she had signed a contract to appear in “Exposed,” the ballet company’s spring repertoire show, the same night.

Initially, pageantry just made her think of “toddlers and tiaras,” Collins said. But she realized the competition was founded on scholarship opportunities for women.

The pageant required preparation and meetings in Milwaukee every week. She got the outfits in place and worked on presenting herself and her platform.

If she wins the statewide competition tomorrow (June 21), she will continue to talking to students about cyberbullying.

“If I can make a difference in one child’s life, I’ve done my job,” she said.

If she doesn’t win, Collins will just be grateful for the experience, she said.

“I’ve become a better person just for competing,” she said.

She will also express herself on political issues, and had hoped to delve more deeply into civic issues at the Badger Girls State Convention the week before the state pageant.

Collins will be a senior at Waunakee High School this year although she’s not a traditional student. She will attend school in between her full-time job with Madison ballet. That will mean taking one class at Waunakee High School, online courses and a Spanish class at UW-Madison, she said.

She could also be an advocate for Miss America, a role she seems happy to fill. Collins will be in the WaunaFest parade July 28 as the Miss Southern Wisconsin Outstanding Teen – perhaps the Miss Wisconsin Teen, and she seems happy talking about the program to young people.

“Little boys have come up to me and asked if there was a Mr. America pageant,” she said.

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