Believing in the beauty of her dreams, McKensie Garber, a 2012 Hale, Missouri, high school graduate, goes to compete in the Miss America contest in September. While preparing for that honor, she uses this time to send the message of her favorite quote that was written by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Believe in the beauty of your dreams.”
Garber said Roosevelt’s message was to tell people the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
“That has been my motto for my entire life,” Garber said, noting that is the message she sends to all the young girls out there because they can be a dreamer and accomplish their dreams just like Garber has been doing. Her dream: to be Miss America.
“My dream was to graduate college in three years and to win Miss Missouri out of college and that is what happened. And, now I am going to Miss America in two months,” said Garber, “and, I am very, very lucky and blessed.”
Everything Garber has done and all the steps she has taken since a small child have been working up to her dream. While it has been a lot of hard work and required a lot of support, it has not slowed the now Miss Missouri one bit.
Visiting the Lake Area last week, Garber took time out of her busy schedule to speak to the youth at the FFA Leadership Camp at Rising Sun about her personal platform, which revolves around inspiring lives of integrity through education. She then visited guests at Wilmore Lodge demonstrating being a leader of character.
Raised in a small Missouri town with a population of approximately 419 people and graduating in a class of 14 students, Garber’s life is bigger than an outsider might imagine of a girl from a small town, as evidenced by being crowned Miss Lake of the Ozarks in 2011, Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen in 2012, Miss Gateway St. Louis in 2014 and just recently, on June 13, Miss Missouri.
Garber started preschool and graduated high school with mostly the same children and, like many, went on to college to prepare for a career. However, Garber took a detour. While she went on to college and still plans for a career, she wanted to touch lives; every life she possibly could, and she is using her small-town values and over-abundant character to do just that.
While she credits growing up in a small town and the love of her two parents for who she is, her biggest influence is her mother.
“Unquestionably my mother … my biggest encourager, supporter, cheerleader, motivator, mentor … for my entire life,” Garber said. “My mom just saw something in me when I was little and she did everything she could to foster the skills in me that have given me successes that I have had in pageants and leadership opportunities.”
Garber started dance at the age of three and continued through high school at the same studio with the same teacher, who happened to have been Miss Missouri 2002.
Garber competed in dance while participating in small pageants with her mentor dance instructor. Through all this, she was also very active in school.
In junior high school she was in a VFW contest about patriotism where she found herself addressing veterans about citizenship and patriotism, which is what led Garber to her current platform.
In high school she participated in 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Family Career and Community Leaders (FCCLA) and National Honor Society (NHS).
In her freshman year of high school she traveled to Anaheim, California, for a national public speaking competition where she won second place. There, Garber realized her skills and passion about speaking, in which she credits to her involvement through the 4-H organization.
In 2011 Garber was state vice president for FBLA and her senior year she was president of the student council.
“I was very involved and have always been a very driven person and that has never stopped,” said Garber, and that drive has clearly kept her competing and working towards her ultimate goal of Miss America.
Another accomplishment of Garber’s was graduating from the Oral Roberts University, a private Christian school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in three years with a degree in convergence journalism and a minor in writing. Garber started her college courses during her senior year of high school and then went on to ORU with a full-tuition scholarship called the Quest Whole Person Scholarship, which she received for her well-roundedness.
While in college and getting an education in mind, body and spirit, Garber studied her two of her passions on the side: dancing and acting and was managing editor of the student newspaper. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, was on the president’s list for a 4.0, and received an award for outstanding senior in convergence journalism and outstanding senior in media. She also received national awards for writing from various organizations.
Keeping her future dreams in mind after Miss America obligations, she also went to film school in Los Angeles last summer.
Involvement influences character
Garber speaks of no negativity and seemed to find the positive in every negative topic introduced. She enjoys dancing, writing, acting and creative, feature, poetry and script writing. Garber said she is currently working on her first novel.
Garber also loves fashion design and competed through school as part of the FCCLA, and she designed her own costume for her jazz en pointe of Michael Jackson’s “PYT (Pretty Young Thing)” for Miss Missouri.
As for dislikes, Garber said she doesn’t like how divided our country has become.
“Our society as a whole … I feel like we are reverting to a lot of our old ways where we polarize ourselves from others because we disagree with them or because we come from a different background than they do. I don’t think that is the direction our society needs to be going,” she said with great passion.
“I just don’t like all the turmoil and hate going on right now. I want the world to be a more compassionate place for others and above all things a safe place … I think as human beings we have the capacity to change that and we have the right to choose to be higher than that and to have integrity … I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a perfectly peaceful world for children to grow up in one day,” said Garber, then adding, “I want to live a life that promotes that though process, and that is why I want to be Miss America.”
From Miss Missouri to Miss America
Garber’s hope, drive, compassion and/or the desire to be an inspiration to others may or may not be what keeps her on the winning path to Miss America. There are so many things about McKensie “Kensie” Garber that she just can’t be described in one word, the four words here or even 10.
Garber has a positive attitude about life and people, and said she is not doing this for herself.
“I didn’t want to be Miss Missouri for myself. I don’t want to be Miss America for myself. It is too much work to be for yourself,” she said with seriousness. “It is so much bigger than me. It is about what I can do for others and God.”
Garber said being in a position such as Miss Missouri and now her work towards Miss America is like a microphone to the world.
“It has opened a lot of doors and I am feeling hopeful for the world,” she said emotionally.
Becoming Miss Missouri
Now that Garber is Miss Missouri, it is a full time job. She is traveling, speaking, making appearances and being the best role model she can be, all while polishing up for Miss America.
In all of her appearances, Garber will be speaking about her personal platform, “CharacterPlus – Inspiring Lives of Integrity through education.” Garber said the message encourages character education in the schools for students and educators.
In addition, Garber will be speaking on behalf of the Miss America organization, as well as raising money for their national platform; the Children’s Miracle Network.
“I am going to push myself to be the best I can be in the areas speaking abilities for interview, my personal talent, my lifestyle and fitness for swimwear and poise and elegance for the evening gown,” she said.
Garber will travel for Miss Missouri and focus on preparing Miss America. With the event just two months away, Garber said she is excited and confident.
Garber would be the first Miss Missouri in more than 25 years to win Miss America and she feels it is time.
“I feel mo is one of the most amazing states in the United States. We are the heart of America…the show me state. I can’t want to show the judges, Missouri and America that it’s time for Missouri to have another Miss America,” she said.
Garber said one of her requirements was to create a 60-second video from a cell phone telling America why she should be Miss America. She said she shot her video for the America’s Choice Award in her home town. She wanted to include the town of Hale in her video because she wouldn’t be who she is today without the people that have poured into her life and empowered her to be a well-rounded young woman.
“They have empowered me to be who I am today!” she said.
The America’s Choice video contest will have videos from all contestants on the Miss America website, www.missamerica.org, and America will have an opportunity to vote. The person’s video who achieves the most votes receives a finalist spot in the top 15 and that will be the competition that is televised live, according to Garber.
“I will be seen on TV when I introduce myself but I won’t be seen unless I make the finals,” she said. “This has been a dream of mine my entire life and I don’t think there is a better time in my life … I feel like I am the best version of myself and I have just been so stretched and sharpened through my college education and experiences to be Miss America and I am so excited I get to roll off that wave of college and go right into it.”
Garber said she feels she is fully qualified for the job of Miss America because of her small town upbringing.
“I have a strongly rooted family that has empowered me to be well-rounded. Miss America should be able to walk into any room to talk to any walk of life and make them a part of her family and that is what growing up in a small town has done for me. I know I can do that as Miss America and help break down a lot of divided barriers in our country,” she said confidently. “I can really relate to people from any walk of life and touch them.”
Garber’s ability to communicate is what helps promote her platform of character education in the classroom.
“I understand and appreciate all the ways God has orchestrated my life,” Garber said. “This is why it is not about me; it is about representing something bigger than myself and the Miss America organization gives me the platform to do that.”