Miss Tennessee 2013 visited all three Bradley County high schools Tuesday to encourage students to volunteer in their community.
Shelby Thompson, who received the state title in June, spoke to students of her personal experiences with volunteering and how that had impacted her life.
She visited Bradley Central High School, Cleveland High School and Walker Valley High School while classes were in session, speaking to groups ranging from freshmen to honor students to student club leaders.
Thompson’s visit was organized in part by the United Way of Bradley County, and some of its staff were in attendance.
Jaynese Waddell, community impact associate with the United Way, spoke to introduce both Thompson and the idea of volunteering during the presentation at BCHS.
“I remember being in high school,” Waddell said. “I remember thinking, ‘Why is volunteering so important?’”
Waddell said she hoped the students would realize that they should volunteer because it would allow them to use whatever they were passionate about to help other people.
Thompson then began to share about how volunteering had shaped the person she became.
She said she volunteered with a variety of organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
While she was working on her bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Thompson said she became a “big sister” to a 14-year-old girl who had lived a life much different from hers.
This girl was the daughter of a woman who suffered from a mental condition called Agoraphobia that caused her to have bad panic attacks in public, which meant the girl and her siblings hardly ever got to go anywhere in public as a family.
When Thompson began talking with the girl, she took her out to eat at a restaurant. When she got back home, she told her mother about how she got to read a menu and how the waiter refilled her glass at the table. The girl had never been to a restaurant before.
Thompson said this helped her realize that other people had tougher lives than she did, and it was more important to help them than to judge them.
“Sometimes, people place judgements on other people, and a lot of it is unjustified,” Thompson said. “That’s a barrier volunteering breaks down for you.”
She encouraged the students to volunteer because it is important to help people in the community to show they care about their needs.
She added that volunteering has some personal benefits too. For example, signing up for a volunteer opportunity could teach students accountability and trustworthiness to do what they said they would do.
“You are making a promise to help other people,” Thompson said.
Volunteering could also help students develop new skills and meet people they might not otherwise have.
After her speech and some questions from students, she playfully chose a male student to go to the front of the auditorium to be crowned “Mr. BCHS,” something she said she had done at each school that day. Sophomore Robert Thompson, who excitedly told her they shared the same last name, wore the crown and practiced his pageant wave to his classmates’ laughter and applause.
After the fun, Miss Tennessee again reminded students to sign up for volunteer activities online.
For more information about signing up for local volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteerocoee.com.