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Doing the Impossible- Miss Santa Clara

“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and soon you will be doing the impossible.”

Taylor Yamane crowned Miss Santa ClaraI had never competed in a pageant before. This was my first time, and it took so much of my courage to apply because it felt like such a risk. I watched Miss America every year since I was a little girl, but never in a million years did I think I would participate in a pageant, let alone actually win one! I never thought I was skinny enough or a nerdy engineer like me belonged in the pageant world. I realized, I have spent my entire life breaking down walls that people put up before me, and this pageant could be my chance to change even more stereotypes.

I grew up on a farm in a small town in eastern Washington. I was raised by my farmer father, who is full Japanese, and my mother who is Irish, French, and Native American. It is safe to say my town had a very small Asian population. One day in kindergarten, a girl came up to me and told me that I wasn’t allowed to play with my fair-skinned, blond, and blue-eyed friends because my hair and my skin were too dark. Obviously in kindergarten, I never thought of myself as different from the other kids, but at that moment I realized I was different. I didn’t look like the other kids I went to school with, and my home life and traditions were much different than those of my friends (I was shocked when I found out not everyone had a rice cooker in their house!). As I got older, these differences become more prominent and easy for me to recognize. I decided to embrace those differences instead of letting them hold me back.

Taylor Yamane Miss Santa ClaraI was stereotyped a lot especially during middle school and high school, but I did not want to live in a world where I was inhibited by the social confines of what people thought I should and should not be good at just because of my appearance. I was the girl who sang the national anthem for her own varsity basketball games and track meets. I was a 5’3” hurdler in high school and a dang good one too! I was a district champion, a state qualifier, and I would beat girls in the high hurdlers who were 6 feet tall, with legs as tall as me, and built like hurdlers. People looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to run the hurdles because I was so short. I also auditioned for and the received the part of the red-headed Annie in our high school’s musical production of Annie when I was a sophomore! I received so many funny looks when I told people I would be playing Annie in our high school’s musical until they heard me sing. Even coming to college in California, where the culture is so diverse with so many people from all walks of life, I was still felt set apart from the crowd as a female engineering student. I had to fight for my respect here and to show that women are just as smart and talented as men in STEM fields. I have decided no matter what people say, I am going to live my own life and accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and not let anything stand in my way.

Taylor Yamane HurdlesI had to use this same mentality when competing for Miss Santa Clara. My engineering friends thought I was joking when I said I would be competing in a pageant. They did not think a pageant was a place for engineers because they only thought of pageants as a competition to see who is prettier and can do their makeup the best when it is SO much more than that! It is a scholarship program where anyone who wants to compete can, and anyone can have the chance to win. With my title, I want to break down the walls and stereotypes that come with the word “pageant”. I am the last person I ever thought would win a pageant, and I want people to know that you can be an engineer and still wear the crown. I plan to use my title as Miss Santa Clara to share my story and show that if this small-town, farm girl can become an engineer AND Miss Santa Clara, then absolutely nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication!

Miss Garden Grove- Where Sash Meets Science

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Volunteering at USC-affiliated Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

When I share that I am pursuing a career in medicine while wearing a sparkly accessory (albeit one that is perhaps not the most inconspicuous), I often get a few raised eyebrows. For some, it can be understandably difficult to reconcile the two and imagine how two seemingly different worlds could mesh together. But having traversed both paths, I can attest that the two worlds are inextricably linked and each arena compliments and enhances the other. Having gone from a complete outsider to now a staunch supporter of the mission and values of this organization, I can share firsthand the impact the Miss America Organization has made on me.

Sarah Bui Miss Garden Grove
The Miss America Organization is founded on four principles, also known as the “four points of the crown”: Service, Scholarship, Style, and Success. This multifaceted foundation enabled me to be a better public servant and has equipped me for a lifelong devotion to service in medicine. The medical vocation is most notably marked by a relentless commitment to advocating for others. I am most grateful to the Miss America Organization for allowing me the opportunity to do exactly that each and every day as Miss Garden Grove. Not only am I privileged to be a voice for my hometown at large, but I am also blessed to meet community members from all walks of life. From the precious kids at our Children’s Miracle Network hospitals to the devoted members of our Garden Grove community service groups, every child, parent, and public servant has shaped me by sharing their story. I met a woman who shared how the Pink Door Salon, our incredible local (and state!) sponsor, had changed her life by helping her heal and regrow her hair after experiencing alopecia areata symptoms. By taking the time to hear her journey and healing process, I better understood how we as healthcare providers can empathize with and advocate for our patients. Connecting with the Garden Grove community continues to mold my vision for what it means to serve, care, and advocate well both at the individual and community scale.

The very people that I am privileged to serve are the ones who have generously supported my academic journey and helped me to attain my Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Southern California in three years. In addition to awarding scholarships, this organization has given me the tools to help me hone my public speaking and communication skills in professional and diplomatic settings.

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Success looks different to each individual. Personally, I experience success in investing and sowing into relationships – from my Garden Grove neighbors and friends, to the people I meet from all over the world. Each of us have the ability to sow into relationships and lift up those around us, with or without a title. That being said, it has been an honor to have a platform to mentor and empower the youth in my community, and to learn from those who have gone before me.

The past few years have remarkably transformed my outlook and vision of what it means to truly have a servant’s heart. I can’t wait to see what growth, challenges, and blessings lie ahead in this coming year.

 

 

Excited to share this journey with you all – join me on Facebook and Instagram at @missgardengrove to stay in touch!

 

Yours truly,

Sarah Bui

Miss Garden Grove 2018

A Thought on New Years Resolutions

23593572_1929946223934183_6161082933745066145_oAt the end of each year, we see a phrase inevitably being adopted by those around us: “new year, new me.” The yearly recaps posted on social media by friends and family nearly always come accompanied by a new set of goals for the coming year. For example, last year I tried to give up chocolate to curb my chocoholic addiction once and for all… but anyone who knows me knows that wasn’t going to happen. 😉 (*types as I finish off the foot of my See’s chocolate Santa)

IMG_3041 2 (1)Admittedly, the last couple weeks I found myself scrolling past these multi-paragraph posts, feeling too busy with my crazy holiday schedule to take a break to read them. Over New Years while on vacation with friends, I had been focusing on my own resolution of being more present with those around me… and less with my face in my phone. So on the long plane ride home I realized I finally had the perfect opportunity to take the time to read those lengthy New Years posts that had been flooding my newsfeed the weeks prior.

After nearly two hours of reading, liking, commenting and adding loved ones’ thoughts to my own 2018 goals, I came to an eye-opening conclusion: Nearly every resolution I saw could somehow be linked to the ideals promoted by the Miss America Organization. I found this incredible because one of the most common questions I hear from pageant naysayers is how Miss America is still relevant today. Yet right on my screen were dozens of friends writing about how they were hoping to accomplish the same goals in 2018 that we as MAO titleholders set out for every year. This got me thinking… if all these resolutions are somehow linked to what we as titleholders strive to embody on a daily basis, then this idea helps validate what we’ve been promoting all along.  

So, my friends, I give you the Top 5 News Years resolutions in the U.S. … and how the Miss America Organization helps young women around the country achieve them: 

  1. Eat healthier/exercise more: One of the most well-known categories of the Miss America competition is Lifestyle and Fitness, or swimsuit. What many people are surprised to hear is how empowering this phase is to the contestants. For months, we work out, fuel our bodies with the healthiest foods and push ourselves to reach our fitness goals to walk on stage feeling more confident than ever. Every body is different, and the Miss America Organization embraces this. It’s not about who is the skinniest. It’s not about which contestant looks resembles a Victoria’s Secret model. Rather it’s about celebrating our individual commitments to leading healthy and active lifestyles… and feeling undeniably empowered in the process.  
  2. Read more: As local titleholders, we read A LOT: newspapers, books, news apps, anything we can get our hands on to stay informed about the world around us. We listen. We observe. And we formulate educated opinions to stand up for our beliefs and do our part to make a difference. We do this all not just to prepare for our 10-minute interview with the judges (where we can be asked anything from our knowledge of current events to questions about ourselves to our stances on hot topic world issues). Rather, we do this because as ambassadors for our communities and for this scholarship program, we know it’s our duty to be active citizens with courage of our convictions. We stand on stage with bright lights hitting our face, thousands of eyes on us, and television cameras broadcasting our every move to viewers around the country… and answer questions that could trip up even a seasoned politician. Every year, I can’t help but watch these women on stage and be incredibly impressed by their poise and intelligence in the face of pressure. 
  3. 24173150_1936946409900831_8934049533651548644_oLearn something new: As titleholders, we are constantly learning new things to improve and grow throughout our preparation for Miss California and year as local representatives. However, what we learn is unique to each woman as we propel through our personal journeys of self-improvement. For me, every phase of competition acts as a motivator to work on the areas of my life that I’d want to excel in whether I was competing or not. The organization encourages me to embrace my talents, be more involved in my community, stand up for causes I care about and act as a role model to the younger generation.
  4. Save money: While this is a New Years resolution I always am working to improve on (your girl is a sucker for a cute pair of shoes), competing in the Miss America Organization alleviates an incredible amount of financial burden. Why? Because the Miss America Organization is the world’s largest scholarship provider for women in the world. I’ve been so fortunate to have earned over $10,000 throughout my years competing to help fund my undergraduate degree at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!) and my upcoming Master’s at Northwestern. Miss America, Cara Mund, has earned $95,000 to help fund her degree at Brown. That’s truly incredible! And the best part is that you can compete on a budget and still be successful. My first year at Miss California’s Outstanding Teen in 2008, I bought my entire competition wardrobe at Forever 21 and on eBay. Last year, I had the help of my committee and some incredible sponsors to help a broke college girl feel like a million bucks on the Miss California stage. These sponsors and volunteers are the backbone of the organization and work tirelessly to help participants grow, learn and feel confident. 
  5. 19143879_1925144634426563_660941730986689294_o (1)Be nicer/kinder/more patient: Finally, what I appreciate most about the Miss America Organization is the sisterhood we share. The women I have met through this organization are some of the most encouraging, driven and ambitious women I have had the privilege of knowing. Their philanthropic hearts propel them to make a difference in their communities and be role models to everyone they meet. Through our platforms (mine is Alzheimer’s Awareness in memory of my grandma Mary Fran), we pinpoint our passions, devise marketable strategies to promote our causes, and follow through to make a difference. We project positivity and strive to make every person we encounter feel important. And that is always relevant.