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SPENCER — In a world full of stereotypes, Miss North Carolina 2013 Johna Edmonds has a mission.
She wants girls to know that there’s more to being a beauty queen than a smile … and a lot that girls can do to make a difference, no matter how old they are.
With help from Communities In Schools of North Carolina, Edmonds came to visit girls at North Rowan Middle School on Wednesday.
Edmonds spoke to small groups, talking about her life as a representative of North Carolina, her pageant career and her platform, promoting literacy.
Being Miss North Carolina means a lot more than just public appearances and ribbon-cuttings, she said.
And, when one student brought up the TV show “Toddlers and Tiaras,” Edmonds was quick to draw a line between her pageant experience and the reality series.
“It’s been truly inspiring to talk to these young ladies,” Edmonds said, between groups of students.
Edmonds said that talking to kids is something she especially enjoys.
“It makes you more relevant,” Edmonds said. “It lets them see that you’re not plastic, that you’re real. It’s all about inspiring young women.”
Edmonds told the North Rowan Middle students about her life: growing up in a single-parent home in Lumberton, then moving to Raleigh.
A graduate of N.C. State University, Edmonds majored in accounting and minored in Spanish.
Edmonds has been working on a master’s degree, and has already accepted a job at the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, which is waiting after she finishes her reign as Miss North Carolina next June.
Still, she told students, it wasn’t easy for her to make it.
Edmonds said it was a struggle for her to learn to read.
That’s what she said inspired her platform, which is focused on literacy education.
Another issue Edmonds spoke to was bullying. She told girls to remember that bullies are, themselves, troubled people.
“Somebody wouldn’t bully you unless something was happening in their life that made them want to tear someone down,” Edmonds said.
“It’s important to surround yourself with people who love you, who will lift you up in your adversities,” she said.
Alexis Cowan, principal of North Rowan Middle School, said Edmonds’ visit was “an awesome experience for our school and our students.”
“She adds so much to our climate of learning,” Cowan said. “What (the students) are going to learn now, and experience, will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Educators took advantage of Edmonds’ visit to give the girls a chance to wear something different to school.
Female students had the option to dress up in business or casual attire.
They filed in wearing dresses, skirts and slacks.
“Everyone looks so nice!” Edmonds said, as they filed in.
Emily Harrison, site coordinator for Communities in Schools N.C., said Edmonds visit was timely.
“Our girls just finished character education, and she embodies character,” Harrison said.
Assistant Principal Lennetta Bartley said Edmonds’ message “could be life-changing for some of our young ladies,” especially the emphasis on literacy.
“And, knowing that they will have obstacles and barriers that can be overcome with perseverance and hard work,” Bartley said.
Malory Braun, age 11, said she was impressed.
“I think that she was very connecting with us,” Braun said. “I think she really cares about everyone’s feelings.”
Dominique Kerns, 12, said she enjoyed hearing about how Edmonds grew up, and said she was encouraged by her story.
Jillian Day-Ingrahm, 11, said Edmonds would inspire her “to pursue your dreams and never give up.”

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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