Today, youth in America are making strides to change the world around them. From powerful social media movements, to political organizing and protesting on the ground, the voice and passion of young people have convinced society to take us seriously. One major component in youth engagement that is overlooked is youth empowerment. When youth are “empowered,” they have the skills, critical awareness, and opportunities to positively impact their own lives and the lives of other individuals, organizations, and communities.
Stephanie Matheson, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss Oregon USA next weekend, chooses to advocate for this cause. She is currently a high school teacher with an endorsement in Social Studies - "I do my best to empower my students by making my classes about more than just the specific subject. Relationships are everything, and when students know you care about them, it gives them a sense of confidence. It's important for them to be aware of what's going on, and when they're informed, they tend to care more. I want them to find their passions and do something with it; whether that is starting a club at school, fundraising for a cause, and getting involved in their community. I periodically will have them do other activities such as Dream Boards - we then talk about the importance of having our goals visible and what we need to do to attain them. I try to give them as much choice as possible so that they have a sense of ownership" - she explained.
As someone who struggled with anxiety and depression in high school, she wants her students to feel empowered and know that she's there for them - "I want to make sure they know I believe in them and I am in their corner; that way they learn to believe in themselves and have confidence in who they are. It's important to me that they leave my classroom as passionate, caring, contributing members of society" - she added.
In the past Stephanie has worked for a mentoring non-profit, as well as interned with Mercy Corps - an international humanitarian organization. Her other platforms include Women Empowerment, which ties in perfectly with her company EmpowHER Apparel, Mental Health Awareness, and Building Cultural Bridges - "I have thousands of community service hours working with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Oregon, Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Cancer Charities, and countless other organizations, as well as serving as a mentor" - she added.
If she wins the crown of Miss Oregon USA the beautiful Stephanie will have the opportunity to represent her state in Miss USA 2018. The state has never won the competition however the highest placed Miss Oregon USA was Gail Atchison who finished 2nd runner-up to Barbara Peterson in 1976. The most recent finalist was Jennifer Murphy in 2004.
Check my interview about her preparation for the upcoming pageant below!