Saturday, September 30, 2017

"The Great Minnesota Get Together”by Devika Narayan





Receiving the request to be a part of the State Fair parade was an invitation I wasn’t truly prepared for. Ever since I was little, I had always anxiously waited for the time of year when I could go experience all the fun and excitement the fair had to offer. Being invited to be a part of that experience brought a whole new level of excitement I had never felt before.

All four of the International queens were invited and we were able to join other state queens on the float!! It was so fun to see and hear about the experiences of other queens across the state and to hear about their accomplishments and goals for their reigns.

Other than the incredible other women that stood with me on the float, the experience of seeing what “The Great Minnesota Get Together”  really meant was unforgettable. To see someone’s face light up or even smile made me realize how prestigious this title really can be.




Other than my amazing experience on the float, I was able to represent my title as Miss Teen MN International at the Alzheimer’s Association booth. As it is my platform, the Alzheimer’s Association asked if I would like to volunteer and represent my cause at the fair, which excited me beyond words! By using the simplistic game of plinko, I was able to invite individuals to come, play, and learn of the effects of Alzheimer’s. It was really humbling on my part to be able to talk about Alzheimer’s in such a way to not only represent the association, but also to help spread the importance of prevention and my mission to find a cure. By participating in such fun appearances, I know I have fulfilled my duties as a queen.


Friday, September 29, 2017

"Queen’s Parade" by Stephanie Welter

 


    When I received the email request to appear in the State Fair parade, I nearly jumped out of my high heels! The great Minnesota Get Together is visited by record breaking numbers each year. This year alone over 1.9 people attended, and my family and I were among them only this year I got a very special seat.
    As a state titleholder with the International system, myself and my sister queens (the Miss, the Teen and the pre-teen) were all invited to ride the Queen’s float! It was thirty minutes of smiles, waves and laughter as we watched the crowd mirror back to us the official “royal wave.” We were surprised and delighted to see how familiar this royal hand-swaying gesture really is and we had to admit that many in the crowd had it mastered even better than we did!


 
    As we arrived on the grounds, our float awaited us like a chariot waiting to enter a royal processional. As the other minnesota royalty arrived, we each took our place on benches and platforms to prepare for the 40 minute ride. The girls, all in their beautiful sparkling gowns, banners and crowns, I was the least “formal” as my family and I had plans to visit the animal barns at enjoy at least one tub of the fair’s famous “Martha’s Cookies!”
    There’s truly nothing like watching thousands of strangers display smiles and waves of kindness, knowing that you represent their community and state with pride and grace.
Several times as we moved along the streets of the parade grounds, I heard my name yelled from the crowd and would look up with delight to see a familiar friend! One familiar voice especially caught my attention (the voice of my husband) and as I heard my name being called I frantically searched the sea of faces to find his. It took me several seconds but at least I saw my husband and our line of kids all along the curb smiling and waving with pride. My heart skipped a beat as I saw their faces, especially my son Benjamin for whom if it were not for his brave journey through what we know as “autism” I wouldn’t be up there as a representative not only of our beautiful state, but also of our precious and invaluable neuro-diverse community. I swallowed back a tear, blew them a kiss and proceeded to scan the crowd for new and excited little faces.
    After the parade my family and I enjoyed touring Minnesota’s businesses at the grand stand, marveling at record breaking, award winning livestock, and indeed indulging in funnel cakes, cookies and pronto pups!
    I have never been so proud to be a Minnesotan, and to represent the title of Mrs. Minnesota International than on that day among hundreds of thousands of friends and neighbors on a picture perfect August day!

'My Current Hometown" by Devika Narayan





The City of Plymouth, my current hometown, is the third largest suburb in Minnesota and one of the most simplistic yet incredible places yet. It’s easy for anyone to say that their hometown is fun for a various list of reasons, but Plymouth is definitively one of the best places to live, besides, we’ve won the best place to live in Minnesota for a countless amount of years. Now living here, I may be a bit biased in my opinion, but there are a ton of reasons to love Plymouth.



We have so many fun places to eat, like Honey and Mackie’s (my favorite place), a family-owned restaurant with the ABSOLUTE best ice-cream and fries. The food there is obviously really great, but the atmosphere is what really makes the place amazing. From the moment you step in you almost immediately feel welcomed. For me, that’s what makes it so memorable and keeps bringing me back. Other than all the amazing places to eat, there’s also so much to see!




The Plymouth Millennium Garden has to be one of the places I think back to when I think of a “fairytale garden”. The thousands of flowers and fountains in the garden make it the perfect place for any occasion, ranging from the weddings that have taken place there, to my various Girl Scout bridging ceremonies!! At the end of the day, it’s a city with so many special things to see and do, but I’ll just end this blog with that so you come visit me and see for yourself ;)!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

" Project 427" by Stephanie Welter




    When Casey Schutrop of Wow Ministries first messaged me on Facebook to ask me to be a part of her Project I had no idea how it would change the world as I know it.
    Casey has organized local events for, a national effort called Project 427 that intercepts kids caught up in human trafficking, and help provide legal, housing and life development programs for them.
  
 
   I was shocked to learn that the project took it’s name after a set up statistics. Every hour, 42 children are trafficked 7 days a week. As an advocate of the Autism Community, I am also troubled to learn that special needs and vulnerable individuals are targets to trafficking.
    The 427 Project is both a coalition and a platform for a public awareness and education campaign before, during and after the Super Bowl 52 which happens in the Twin Cities in February 2018. What rocked me to my core, is when Casey explained to me that the children trafficked each year in the US would fill the 66,655 seats in the U.S. Bank stadium FIVE TIMES. She also told me that for cities that host a major event (like a super bowl) trafficking rates skyrocket in that city, and unfortunately, they do not come back down much in the months and years following.
  

 
 
  I was invited to two fundraising and awareness events, and when Casey does a thing….she does it right! I arrived on the beautiful grounds of the HighView stables to a summer celebration of BBQ chicken and other great food (including the best S’mores I’ve ever had) along with great drawing prizes, games and a live 11 piece musical ensemble!
  
 
  The most memorable thing however, was meeting the “behind the scenes” and “in the field” individuals who make intervention and prevention possible. From police sergeants to educators to therapists and a team of volunteers, it truly take a village of heartfelt, compassionate persevering individuals to help end and heal the devastation of human trafficking.
 
    I was awestruck to hear from those who were victimized by trafficking and what their lives had been reduced too. As Casey spoke, she mentioned that although we were in a beautiful area in a beautiful wealthy suburb in the Twin Cities, a brothel was in operation just 1.5 miles from our gathering.
    I was an am honored to partner with Project 427 to raise awareness, money and anything else needed to help set captives free from the every growing travesty that is human trafficking.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"My most memorable experience" by Serena Schreifels





So far, one of my most memorable experiences as Miss Minnesota International, has been the Miss International Pageant.  It was a week filled with not only the glitz and glamour of the pageant world, but volunteering and giving back. I met so many new and wonderful people and had experiences I will carry through the rest of my life.

 

Miss International was held in Charleston West Virginia.  I love the east coast and West Virginia has some of the most beautiful sceneries in the U.S. Orientation day, we met the Mayor of Charleston. He was so excited and humbled to have us there and the sense of community we all felt was tremendous. My favorite service project was interacting with the kids at the local boys and girls club. We colored, played games, and chatted about basketball and movies. It was so amazing to catch a glimpse of life through their eyes. 

 

Although I didn’t make top ten on finals night, I’m still proud of my performance. I know I did the best that I could and tried to make Minnesota proud as well.  I am so honored to have such amazing support here at home and this pageant only made me realize how much I love this state.  All the friends I made and the people who influenced me pageant week have left an imprint on my heart.  I can’t wait to see what’s coming next because of the experiences I had at Miss International.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"My Plans for the year " by Devika Narayan

 
 
 
It’s been some time now and I’ve done a lot of thinking. Being crowned with a title such as Miss

Teen Minnesota International involves so much more than simply wearing a crown, wearing a

banner, and looking pretty. There are obviously parts to the title that involve all the glamour and

fun you see on TV, but I myself have decided to commit myself this year to this title, and the

countless opportunities that it brings with it.

There are plenty of issues within our society that I think need more attention, but my mission this

year will be to not only promote my platform as well as the AHA, but get my own generation

more actively involved within the community. For me, teaching and advocating, using my voice

and title to inspire others, will be something I strive heavily for. Using the Alzheimer’s

Association, I will help with the search for a cure, by educating and promoting prevention. Using

the AHA, specifically Go Red for Women, I will advocate for heart healthy lives and teach about

the importance of prevention beforehand. By being an active member within my community, I

hope to lead by example and teach my own generation that making an impact on the community

is possible, through involvement and service.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Hoyt Lakes" By Stephanie Welter

 


    Shortly after being crowned Mrs. Minnesota International, I got my first official request. How exciting! It was from my director Allison, sending me my very first appearance request as a new crown titleholder!
    She explained to me that this was a tradition amongst the international queens, that each year, the Minnesota International royalty made a trip to Hoyt Lakes which is in northern Minnesota to Crown local Hoyt Lakes royalty in this beautiful part of our state.
    That was three months ago, and I've done many appearances since then, but this week I finally got the chance to head to Hoyt Lakes for the very first time and be a part of this extraordinary tradition. Robert Bartholomew has been spearheading this beautiful crowning event for decades, but this year he's passing the torch on to a group of young women who are already prepared to carry it forth with excellence. Bob is a jack-of-all-trades as head of the Chamber of Commerce, a local business owner, a guitar player, and  a man that is highly respected in his community for his public service.
  
  As I made my journey 4 hours north of the Twin Cities, I passed rolling hills, tall Northern Pines, an occasional deer grazing near the tree line and lots and lots of lakes!
    As I pulled up to the event venue I caught a glimpse of the stage with all the beautiful young ladies in their perfect gowns and got excited.
 
 
 
 
Bob walked up to greet me warmly and we chuckled about the fact that we were both wearing royal blue. He escorted me to the stage, and up I went to take my place among the hopeful new royalty. I was given opportunity to say a few words, so I encouraged the lovely young ladies and talked about how much courage it took to be up in this position standing up in front of the community having worked very hard to win a local title. The fact that they all had promising futures ahead of them as strong, beautiful young women inside and out, and had the chance to talk briefly about my role as a representative not only for the state of Minnesota but also for the beautiful autism community, and how I would soon be given the opportunity to share the platform of Understanding the Puzzle of Autism with a national and an international audience.
    Within no time, the new Queen had the crown placed upon her head, and the mini’s in their beautiful little taffeta dresses came clicking up in their tiny shoes to hug her and take photographs with her. But, what struck me most was how all of the other young ladies her age turned to her to embrace and encourage her and spent time afterward chatting, hugging, and taking photographs together... as a group of friends. It really seemed to be a network of support and encouragement.
    Thank you Hoyt Lakes for showing me your beauty, and allowing me the experience of helping to Crown a group of truly exceptional and promising young ladies!





Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"And your new Miss Teen Minnesota International is.....DEVIKA NARAYAN!!



“And your new Miss Teen Minnesota International is…... DEVIKA NARAYAN!!” It was in my

crowning moment that I knew that a lot of the sayings I had heard growing up really could be

true. Hard work and commitment really did produce results. I still remember my face, full of

excitement as I looked out for my parents in the crowd, realizing it was just as much of a shock

to them as it was to me. Being my first pageant, I really wasn’t expecting to claim the title on the

first try, but the odds seemed to work in my favor this time. Being selected as one of the 11

amazing young women on that stage to represent Minnesota not only for the International

pageant, but also for the year gave me a sense of pride and joy all at the same time. I think that

the crowning moment in itself is one I wish I could replay every moment. It’s one of those rare

moments in life that feel like they last a lifetime but in reality, are only a few seconds. To sum it

up, it was a moment of pure joy and happiness that are inexplicably matched to anything else

I’ve ever done and for that I am very grateful.



Monday, July 24, 2017

"TEAM" (Together Everyone Accomplishes More) by Stephanie Welters



    “Here they come! Wow! They look like they mean business!”
That was the unified chant of the crowd the day the word TEAM took on new meaning for my son and his school mates at The MAC School.
    We love chartering new territory, and although it’s risky, we typically charge forward full steam ahead. Kathryn (the MAC School Director) loves proving people wrong when they express “concern” over our kids trying new activites. That’s what makes it fun. We’ve learned that it always pays off to take those risks.
  
 
 
 
 
 
   This day, was another “first”. The very first softball game EVER played by my son Ben and his classmates. We took our seats in the bleachers, and the kids ran enthusiastically out to the field, suited up, ball caps and all, and gloves in hand. They began to practice and the crowd began to fall silent. I think there was a collective “awe” that we’re really gonna try this and see how the kids do their first time playing softball.
    After a few minutes of watching my son Ben toss the ball to his classmate, we watched the Minnesota Twins van roll up and again began to cheer as we watched TC the bear bounce out of the van, followed by Twins pitcher Hector Santiago! We began clapping as they took the field to practice with the kids.
 
 
 
 
    When the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise heard about our desire to start the first ever softball team for kids on the spetrum. They got excited and wanted to participate!
     It was what came next that suprised and amzazed even us “seasoned” parents. We stood to sing the national anthem sung by Nate who has the voice of an angel (many kids on the autism spectrum have what’s called “perfect pitch” and it is exactly as it sounds...the ability to sing perfectly on pitch after hearing a note). As soon as he completed the song the empire shouted “Play ball!” and the first  student stood up to bat sending the crowd once again to our feet cheering and shouting encourgement and praises for each swing. Hector Santiago tossed in that first pitch...and...a base hit!! The next child stood up to the plate with therapists, parents and sibblings cheeing them on. On it went in like fashion. Tears stung the sides of my cheeks as I watched my 19 year old son walk up to the plate, take hold of that bat and swing….CRACK! A nice grounder to third base, putting him safely on 1st! All in all he was up to bat twice and got base hits both times. I was felt such pride and such gratitude for this moment...for all these little moments of victorious “firsts.”
    After the game, we all enjoyed snacks and lemonade, marveling at the job well done by the students and staff, telling them so - profously! TC gave hugs and Hector signed autographs and the kids absolutely beamed with pride at having done something new, and having succeeded!
   I was asked to take the microphone and say a few words, so I thanked the staff for working so hard with our kids. Thanked the Twins for their encouragement and support, and reminded the parents of my new favorite accornym:
Together
Everyone
Accomplishes
More


Warmly,
Stephanie Kay Welter
Mrs. Minnesota International 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"So, I was crowned Miss Minnesota International. Now what?" by Serena Schreifels


 
 
So, I was crowned Miss Minnesota International. Now what? Well, I’ll tell you! I’m so excited for all the events and opportunities coming up this year, especially about my platform. I plan on taking advantage of this title as much as possible and I hope to inspire and influence many people throughout my reign. I can’t wait!

 

Recently, I was accepted to the Speaker Bureau for my platform, MakeItOkay. I will be trained as a professional speaker and volunteer. With this opportunity I can educate so many people and the importance of mental health. I will be able to spread awareness for my platform and share my story!

 

I also plan on making as many appearances as I can! I hope to talk to different schools and public events about this wonderful pageant system and of course, my platform. I’m also looking forward to volunteering for many community nonprofits and events. This includes, Walk a Mile in her Shoes, NAMI, and the animal shelter! I’m so excited and I can’t wait to share it all with the amazing people around me!