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Miss Marin County Olga Kolin- Living in the Present

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI used to spend my summers with my grandparents at their summer home on the outskirts of Kyiv in Ukraine. There, my fondest and most careless memories take place. I spent my days outside with my imagination entertaining me. When I wasn’t cooking up soup out of flowers, or climbing in my apple tree “house”, I was reading, singing or helping my grandma out in the kitchen and/or garden. I realize now this was the only time in my life when I successfully managed to live in the present.

When I was 7 years old, my parents and I moved to the United States. Ever since then, I have been future-minded. Both having higher education degrees and respectable professions, my parents urged me to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in the U.S. I will never forget the day that they took me to visit a beautiful university. I was 9 during my visit and it was then that my desire and drive to pursue higher education developed. After the visit, I worked diligently in school and managed to get the perfect report cards.

While I became a better student, I also started thinking about the future careers I would be interested in pursuing and/or what I would like to study in university. I dabbled with professions that reflected my hobbies, for I knew I wanted to make a career out of something that made me happy. There were many I considered across different ages: chef, architect, publicist, interior designer. By the time I reached high school, I finally decided on pursuing a business degree.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI vividly remember coming into high school and thinking, “I just want to graduate and go to college” and throughout high school I did everything I could to be an ideal applicant. I enrolled in honors and advanced placement courses, was a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity tennis and golf. Although such a degree of commitment and participation on campus made my high school experience enjoyable and memorable, everything always seemed rushed and geared for getting into college.

It wasn’t until perhaps the second half of my senior year that I realized I wanted it all to slow down. I was hit by the realization that life would change drastically after graduation, no longer would I have the comfort of being with my beloved friends and family anymore on a daily basis. I was about to be hit with an immense wave of unfamiliarity and everything would change.

As I entered college I was quick to indulge in the opportunities at Dominican University of California and was also quick to start thinking about graduation. Here I was, repeating the same mistake I had made when I entered high school. Although I am passionate about what I want to do in the future, I find myself rushing once more through a priceless once in a lifetime experience that is college.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyWhen I found out about the Miss Marin County pageant last year, I decided it would be fun to participate and to meet new people. Preparing for the pageant was incredible and I am thankful for the skills that I acquired and for the people I met throughout the preparation period. On the morning of the pageant, I feared that the journey had come to an end. I decided to shut down my phone and to be completely present as the pageant ensued. For the first time in 12 years, I lived in the present and was not concerned about the future, I just had fun and enjoyed taking part in the competition. To my surprise, I was crowned as Miss Marin County 2018 and the moment was surreal. For once, time slowed down and I was overwhelmed by the excitement and spontaneity of the moment.

My favorite part about starting a new year is the concept of creating resolutions. One of mine is to live in the present more and to focus on the now. With a busy schedule, I often think about what I need to do next, whether it’s in the next minute, hour, day or just the week –I am always forward thinking.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI do see it as a blessing that I have my mind set on the future for this has allowed me to decide what I want in my professional life and to plan the necessary steps to get there. Although it is necessary to think ahead, it is crucial to live in the present and to maximize every moment that life gifts us with.

As I continue my college career, my reign as Miss Marin County 2018 and begin the journey to Miss California, I will continuously remind myself to live in the present moment and I encourage you all to make the same habit. As my father always tells me, “there is no better time than now” so let us make the most of it.  

Miss Marin County- MAO and the College Process

Hello! My name is Isabelle Gardner and I am Miss Marin County 2015. With college admissions decisions being released this month, I have decided to dedicate this blog post to two important aspects of my life at the moment: the college process and the Miss America Organization.

IMG_2091I have been involved in the Miss America Organization since my junior year of high school, when I was crowned Miss Marin County’s Outstanding Teen 2014. It was my positive experience as a teen that led me to compete again this year as a Miss, and I was honored to be named Miss Marin County 2015 last fall. Around the same time, I embarked on another journey that actually turned out to have a lot in common with my new title: I started my college search.

Ok, confession time. Since last fall, I have actually applied to 18 colleges. I know exactly what I want to study – public policy – but I’m still not sure exactly where I want to study it. And, yes, California colleges are most definitely among my top options!

IMG_3156It was actually the opportunity to earn scholarship money for college that led me to MAO in the first place. However, I truly did not realize how much my experience as titleholder would prepare me for the college application process. As I prepare for college, here are some of the many ways the Miss America Organization has prepared me for what will be the biggest step in my life so far:

1. Interview/communication skills. Thank goodness for MAO and the heavy emphasis on interview and public speaking. I don’t think I will ever forget how nervous I felt sitting down for my first college interview. It was last September, and I had received an email the previous week from one of my top-choice schools about regional interviews in my area, so of course I was quick to sign up. When I met my interviewer at a coffee shop a few blocks away from my high school, I was shaking so badly that I thought my hands were going to spill my latte all over the front of the dress that I had so carefully selected for the occasion. I could still feel butterflies in my stomach when my interviewer asked me: “Isabelle, what is one world issue that you feel is the most important today?”

Instantly, the shaking stopped. My butterflies disappeared, and I tried not to look too excited as I thought to myself “I’ve answered this question so many times in pageant interview. I know exactly what I want to say – and how to present my argument.”

Thanks to the prep I have done throughout the past year with my amazing committee, I now feel extremely comfortable answering questions in any setting – either over coffee or on stage. These communication skills have also given me a heightened degree of critical thinking. I have gained the ability to think on my feet and present my argument in a clear and structured way.

2. Scholarships Ok, this one seems kinda obvious, but it is so important and such a wonderful aspect of MAO. Like I said earlier, I applied to 18 schools, which has required a lot of research on my part. My findings? College is expensive. Through the Miss America Organization, I have been able to help finance my college education and look for different scholarships that reward specific accomplishments. And once I started really looking into how many awards MAO offers, I was amazed. Involved in community service? There’s a scholarship for that! Passionate about academics? There’s one for that too! But perhaps the most appealing aspect of scholarship for me is the fact that the contestant who walks away with the crown is not the only one who walks away with scholarship money. Rather, there is a guaranteed scholarship for everyone who competes. Every young woman is a winner, and when the prize is scholarship money, victory is that much sweeter.

3. Confidence While this may sound like a little bit of a cliché, one of the things I am most grateful to the Miss America Organization for is the confidence it has given me over the past two years. And though I didn’t realize this at first, confidence is something I’ll really need to have in college. When I entered high school, I would never have imagined myself performing on a stage or answering questions in front of a judging panel. Yes, there is a significant difference between walking across stage wearing a swimsuit and giving a presentation to a class, but both actions require the same thing: confidence. Like many of my peers, I find the thought of potentially moving thousands of miles away from my family, making new friends, and sharing a room with someone I’ve never met before a little bit daunting. But knowing that I have a strong sense of confidence makes putting my best foot forward a little easier.

IMG_3659At the moment, I don’t know where I will spend my next four years. (OK, so maybe applying to 18 schools was a little excessive). But, I do know that wherever I end up, the skills I have acquired and the second family I have met through the Miss America Organization will be with me through my college years and beyond. As for now, I just need to figure out where exactly where that will be.

Until next time,
Isabelle Gardner
Miss Marin County