Years with 4-H help shape Miss Washington’s community service ethic
By Betsy Fradd, WSU Extension
YAKIMA, Wash. – As a shy, young girl Reina Almon dreamed of becoming an artist, animal trainer, singer or dancer. The worlds of beauty pageants or environmental advocacy weren’t remotely on her radar.
Community service, however, was front and center in 4th-9th grades when she was actively involved in 4-H, which is a service of Washington State University Extension.
“Visiting nursing homes, the humane society, volunteering at horse shows and doing food drives gave me a lot of different perspectives on what I could do in the community,” said the 22-year-old Yakima native. “My experience in 4-H prepared me for my job as Miss Washington (http://www.misswashington.org/). Five days a week I travel around the state doing some type of community service.”
Reading to children to promote literacy and acting as spokesperson for the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking are among Almon’s activities. She also attends fundraisers, assemblies and festivals, visits senior facilities and promotes cultural tolerance by working with the ambassador of Taiwan.
Entering her first competition at age 15 was supposed to be something fun to do just once. But the potential to earn scholarship money and refine her public speaking skills kept Almon coming back. In all, she has competed in 13 pageants and won more than $24,000.
How does she answer critics who claim the pageant is sexist?
“The bikini portion is not my favorite. I think there are better ways to judge physical fitness,” said Almon whose vocal talent brought top honors as she performed a selection from “Les Miserables.”
The impetus of her platform, “Sustainability: Impacting Tomorrow, Today,” began in high school when her best friend was diagnosed with a type of cancer that doctors said might be due to the environment. As an intern Almon helped raise $70,000 for the Lands Council. She was an officer for the Eastern Washington University Sustainability Project.
Now a senior at Eastern, she is taking a year off college to serve as Miss Washington through July. After graduating with a major in government and minors in women’s studies and philosophy, she plans to attend law school to earn an environmental degree.
She said she looks forward to continuing outreach efforts, which may include volunteering in a 4-H club or 4-H community service project.
“Not only did 4-H give me tremendous networking and interpersonal skills but it also changed my outlook on life and my purpose in the world,” she said.
Read Almon’s blog at http://reinas-reign.blogspot.com/