Pageant winners share their experiences in Miss America program with Kiwanis

Published 9:00 am Friday, May 26, 2023

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On Thursday, Miss Georgia, Miss Troup County and Miss LaGrange spoke at the LaGrange Kiwanis Club meeting at Highland Country Club and shared some of their experiences in participating in the Miss Georgia scholarship program.

Current Miss LaGrange Rylee Ruegger and Miss Troup County Jessica Roberts were joined by Miss Georgia Kelsey Hollis to speak about the scholarship program.

Reugger and Roberts will compete for Hollis’s crown in June as they both vie for the new Miss Georgia title. Hollis finished fourth runner-up in the 2022 Miss America competition.

“We all have very big shoes to fill because Kelsey truly has done a phenomenal job,” Reugger said.

“We are all part of the Miss Georgia scholarship organization. It provides scholarships as well as community service opportunities within the state of Georgia. Once you win a state title, you then get to compete for the amazing title of Miss America,” Reugger said.

Miss Troup County Jessica Roberts said she has been a part of the Miss America program most of her life. She said she began in the teen program from 12 to 18 and this is her second year in the Miss organization.

“I’m going to Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia 100 percent debt free through scholarships provided in the Miss America organization. It’s one of the leading providers of scholarships for young women in the nation and in the state of Georgia,” Roberts said.

Reugger and Roberts shared their personal platforms that they advocate through the program.

Reugger said her platform is the Be Nice Program, where she goes to elementary schools to promote the importance of kindness, bullying awareness and empathy. Being a beauty queen, one might not expect Rylee to be the victim of bullying, but she said had a speech impediment as a child.

“When I was younger, I had a massive speech impediment. I’d love to talk, but no one literally knew what I was saying at all,” Reugger said, noting she got bullied for it in school. “I had multiple speech lessons to try to clear my thoughts and my words out and honestly my speech really didn’t develop and get clear until I was introduced to pageantry.”

She said most of her speech impediment came from hearing loss and ear issues when she was younger.

Roberts said her advocacy platform is Paws for Mental Health. She said the play on words suggests not only pausing for your mental health but also pausing with your four-legged friends to help heal.

She said her longtime platform has been people helping animals and animals helping people.

“I developed my platform because when I was in fifth grade, my aunt Tracy had a stroke, and it paralyzed her on the left side of her body,” Roberts said. “It really made her fearful of getting up and getting active and being a part of the community again, but then my teacup Yorkie broke its leg, and she saw that it was still active and still wanted to play and still wanted to get up. It really inspired her to become more active and try to motivate herself again. It made me realize how impactful animals can be in people’s lives.”

Miss Georgia Kelsey Hollis said women like Jessica and Rylee have motivated her and have been really impactful on her journey since she started in the Miss America organization at the age of 13.

Hollis is currently attending the University of Tennessee, where she is majoring in journalism and hopes to go into sports journalism or possibly sports psychology. She said her attending the university is only possible because of the scholarship money that she has been able to obtain through the Miss America organization.

“This organization really does put us in a position to be around so many amazing women who are driven and determined and accomplishing great things in life,” Hollis said.