The Ten Minutes that Changed My Life: From California to The White House

Jane Kennedy Miss Yosemite Valley

Soaking it in in front of the West Wing

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being the next Kennedy in The White House.

As a child, I looked up to my mom and grandmother, who modeled charity and compassion through their commitment to serving others. Service quickly became ingrained in my life. Saturday mornings meant serving breakfast at Loaves and Fishes, summer afternoons were spent tutoring with Super Stars Literacy in Oakland, and August meant stuffing backpacks for Foster a Dream. Nothing gave me more joy than using my own two hands to serve others in my community. I was constantly seeking out bigger and better ways to make a greater impact.

When the President comments that he loves the glitter...

When the President comments that he loves the glitter…

In eighth grade, our class began to learn about the federal government and how leaders in Washington, DC had the ability to appropriate funding and direct efforts to support their constituencies. It was then that I became determined to work in The White House, where serving others could be a full-time job.

Through high school and college, I chased opportunities to lead, grow, and serve. During my junior year at UC Santa Barbara, I decided to apply for the UCDC program, which allows University of California students to live and work in Washington, DC while receiving units and taking classes at night. I remember going in to meet with the program advisor and listing the internships I was applying for. When I brought up The White House Internship Program, he laughed.

I shared the dream that I’d had for over ten years, and the response was laughter. The advisor told me that my chances were “slim” and that I should “explore other options.” Leaving the office, I refused to feel defeated – instead, I shook off his doubt. I resolutely decided that I would rather try and fail than not apply at all.

Two months later, I received a call from a blocked number while walking home from class. The voice on the other end of the phone said that it was “Jessica, calling from The White House.” I just about fell over.

Jane Kennedy Miss Yosemite Valley

Surprise! I got to welcome Jessa and the Miss America class of 2017 to the White House!

With little time to think, I pulled it together and ran off the busy walkway into a grove of trees. Jessica asked if I had ten minutes to interview, and I exuberantly responded “Of course!” For the next ten minutes, I interviewed like my life depended on it. I told Jessica about my leadership on campus, my passion for working with young women, and my involvement with the Miss California Organization. After just 10 minutes and seven seconds, we ended the call. I stood in that wooded area off the path for a few moments, thinking that those ten minutes may have been the best ten minutes of my life. I had interviewed for The White House! Little did I know, it was only the beginning.

Three months later, I walked up the steps of The White House for the first day of my internship. I spent those months working harder than I ever knew possible, leading speaker series events with senior staff, writing memos, organizing community service events, mentoring high school students, and so much more. A highlight was getting to present President Obama with a birthday card on behalf of my intern class!

Jane Kennedy Miss Yosemite Valley

One of the best days, South by South Lawn

After my internship, I was extended the opportunity to stay through the fall as an Associate. Those next four months afforded me the chance to work with the Presidential speechwriting team, assisting with five speeches for the President and First Lady. I also worked on major events, including Halloween, the Italian State Arrival, and South by South Lawn. After eight months, I came home to California a changed woman – still determined to live a life of service, but far more empowered and confident in my ability to do so.

The detail that my interview for The White House was ten minutes is not lost on me. I had just completed my year as Miss Ventura County 2015, and had spent countless hours training to rock a ten-minute interview. Without this experience, there’s no way to know if I could have closed the deal and secured my dream job. The Miss America Organization has given me the tools to succeed and the strength to believe that I am capable of anything I can imagine. This program empowers us to step out of our comfort zones, to embrace challenges, and to do it all for the sake of service.

Each of us is called to serve, and I’m endlessly grateful for the opportunities afforded to me through the Miss California Organization. As Miss Yosemite Valley this year, I am determined to make every moment count and to use this platform to encourage others to do the same.

Thank you for reading – go out and chase those “crazy” dreams because you never know what might happen!

Jane Kennedy
Miss Yosemite Valley 2018

Miss Ventura County: Sisters At Last

IMG_9933Growing up, all I wanted was a sister. When I was four years old, I got a little brother named Jack. I did my best in the most important job I had ever had: being a big sister. I hugged him and kissed him constantly, just to make sure he knew how much I loved him. Three years later, my mom was pregnant again. I hoped and prayed that it would be my sister. I dreamed of playing dress up with our dolls, braiding her hair, and playing fairy princesses in the backyard. I couldn’t wait to teach her everything I knew and share my excitement for life with her. When my mom came home with another boy, I refused to lose hope. I loved Matthew just as much as Jack, and I quickly moved on from the fact that he wasn’t a girl. Three more years, and it was my last chance. I remember gathering up all of my favorite girlie toys and books and blankets, and waiting eagerly for the arrival of what I was sure to be my perfect little sister. You can probably guess where this is heading- my brother Cooper was born in 2004. With three little brothers under my belt, I pushed aside my dream for a sister and focused on being the best role model I could for them. I played soccer with them (until they were too big and way better than me), I encouraged them to pursue theater and music, and I strived to set the most positive example I could in all aspects of my life. My dream of a sister was pushed aside in favor of loving and appreciating the gifts of my amazing brothers.

house2When I headed off to the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall of 2013, my lost dream of having a sister was quickly fulfilled when I joined the Delta Gamma sorority. Instead of just one sister to dress up with, I had 140. It was pretty evident that God had planned this all along, by giving me beautiful brothers growing up and inspiring sisters when I left home. Delta Gamma has given me opportunities to pursue service, engage with alumnae, and grow as a college student. Being surrounded by women who support and care about one another has transformed my college experience. Now, living in a house with 43 of these ladies, I can appreciate the family that we have created. I cherish each one of them, and I know that our friendships will last many years after we throw our caps at graduation.

IMG_7326On January 17, I was welcomed into another sisterhood: the Miss California Class of 2015. From the moment I was crowned Miss Ventura County, I have been surrounded and supported by amazing women, all of whom exemplify what the Miss America Organization has to offer: service, style, scholarship, and success. If we could add another point to the crown, I have no doubt that it would be sisterhood. Each of us has a story, and we each have a passion. Every woman who carries a title has a dream and we are willing to work towards it- together.

10420777_814473555256170_3956833175279335967_nWhat is most incredible is the fact that I have met women who bring my two sisterhoods together- my Delta Gamma sisters in the Miss California family! I am so lucky to be a part of two sisterhoods that promote service, determination, scholarship, and leadership. My sisters are motivating me to live with passion and work tirelessly towards excellence. Years ago, I never could have imagined the unbelievable impact sisters have made on my life. I wish I could go back and tell that little girl how one day she would be blessed with more than 200 sisters.

Or maybe not, because I learned a valuable lesson: sometimes life works out in unexpected and incredible ways.

Thanks for reading!

Jane Kennedy

Miss Ventura County 2015

Show Some Love on Valentine’s Day

Bree (at right) with her mom and sister

Bree (at right) with her mom and sister

Before I get into the real reason for this blog, I just wanted to introduce myself and say thanks for stopping by our page! My name is Bree Morse and in January I was fortunate enough to be crowned Miss Orange Coast 2015. I’m excited for the year that lies ahead of me and to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you (you can follow me on Instagram at @missorangecoast)!

Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, and whether or not you have that “special someone,” there is probably a part of you screaming “Great. What do I do now?” Most likely, there’s also part of you hoping that an admirer will send you a special delivery of a 5lb box of See’s Candy. At least I’m guilty of both of these thoughts. In all actuality, Valentine’s Day was not always associated with secret admirers, flying babies with a bow and arrow, and excessive amounts of confectionery hearts. Originally a religious holiday, it wasn’t until the 1300’s that the holiday became associated with romance. In the 1840’s, along came mass produced Valentine’s Day cards that would soon establish February 14th as a prominent consumer holiday. I can’t imagine that they had the One Direction valentines at that time, but the tradition of letting someone know that you care about them has carried on ever since.

Don't forget your favorite Valentine-themed clothes!

Don't forget your favorite Valentine-themed clothes!

For as long as I can remember, Valentine’s Day has been one of my favorite holidays of the year. Every February 14th my sister and I would wake up even earlier just to have our mom French braid a heart into the back of our heads as we wrote out valentines to our classmates (One year I had Lisa Frank cards with matching pencils. At that point I thought for sure my life was made). After leaving the house with the perfect hair-do, it was off to school to pass out your notes of admiration then to see what you received in return. There was nothing better than the feeling of untying the yarn holding closed your craft-time mailbox to see kindness and compassion of your peers spill out onto your desk (the candy and pencils weren’t bad, either).

To this day, I cannot overstate the importance of making the holiday special for those you care about. My mom doesn’t French braid my hair in the mornings, but on that day I still find every single heart-adorned accessory and clothing item that I own to show my love for Valentine’s Day. So this year, regardless if you’ll be going to a fancy dinner with your Valentine or if your special someone is your cat (let’s face it, my cat Stanley is quite a catch), challenge yourself to go out of your way to let someone know that you care about them. It’s a kind gesture as simple as telling someone they look nice, that they made you smile the other day, or even giving them that prized Lisa Frank pencil. Although the 5 lb box of candy will definitely not be turned down, it’s the essence of Valentine’s Day that makes it so special – to love, and be loved. Who could pass that opportunity up?!

All my best,
Bree Morse
Miss Orange Coast