January 4, 2012
By Natalie Davis, Miss Minnesota 2011
This is my last Autism Society blog before I leave to compete in the Miss America pageant this month. It is important to me that the followers of this blog know that Miss America is more than just a beauty pageant. The Miss America Organization has given me a voice and an opportunity to take my personal experience with autism and channel it into service work that positively impacts my community. I would like to take this time to share my personal connection to autism as well as some of the ways I have been working to improve the lives of people impacted by this condition.
My brother Trevor has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) called Asperger’s Syndrome. My passion for autism stems from my personal connection to the condition. First and foremost, I serve as a supportive sister. I have been Trevor’s swimming teacher, tutor, coach, advocate and best friend.
Trevor’s struggle to make friends and his success in doing so after enrolling in a social skills class inspired me to found Awesome Club, a social skills program for special needs children that meets weekly in the Northfield School District, near where I attend St. Olaf College. I wrote a program proposal, met with the district’s autism specialist, special education teachers and superintendent, and solicited volunteers from my college. Since its inception, Awesome Club has experienced tremendous growth. It began with four students and four volunteers. Four years later, Awesome Club now serves over 30 special needs students at two different schools.
During the six and a half months that I have been Miss Minnesota, I have traveled over 17,000 miles, working to increase awareness of ASD by speaking at schools, civic organizations and community events. My message of hope and success for individuals with ASD has reached even more people through the use of radio, television and social media. I have collaborated with numerous autism organizations, including the Autism Society of Minnesota as its official spokesperson and Steps of Hope committee member, and the Autism Society of America as a spokesperson and popular blog contributor. I have also volunteered with Autism Speaks, CADE (Children with Autism Deserve an Education), Holland Center, West Metro Learning Connections, Southwest Minnesota Autism Coalition, Fraser, ARC, and the Minnesota Autism Center. I participated in the production of a training video for Boy Scout troop leaders working with children with ASD, which I hope will eventually be distributed nationally to create a more inclusive environment for kids with ASD who hope to find success through Boy Scouts of America. Recently, I met with Governor Mark Dayton to discuss important legislative action related to the Minnesota autism community. My passion for this issue is evident in the number of miles I have traveled, the number of organizations with which I have networked, and the number of people I have touched with my personal story.
I am relaying some of the work I have done, not to toot my own horn, but to let America know that I am serious about working on behalf of the autism community. I leave to compete at Miss America next week, and I may have the opportunity to bring my autism advocacy to the national level as your new Miss America. I need your help. America has the chance to vote one contestant into the Top 15 at the Miss America pageant, which will air LIVE on ABC on January 14, 2012. Each contestant created a one-minute video indicating why she should be the next Miss America. My reason for wanting to be Miss America is greater than myself. I want to bring national attention to the issue of autism by becoming the first Miss America in its 91-year history to have an autism platform. Please, go to www.missamerica.org/videocontest to cast your vote to get me into the Top 15 at the Miss America pageant. Don’t forget to watch me compete for the title of Miss America LIVE on ABC from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Saturday, January 14. And, if you happen to host a viewing party, please take photos and tag “Miss Minnesota 2011 – Natalie Davis” on Facebook!
Thank you, and have a blessed new year!
Miss Minnesota 2011
To learn more about the Miss Minnesota Organization, please visit www.missminnesota.org. To follow me during my year as Miss Minnesota, read my blog at www.nataliedavis.weebly.com.
Topics:Living with Autism, News
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