WILTON – For the first time in several years Maine will participate in the Miss Teen International competition, held in Charleston, West Virginia, with a Wilton girl taking the lead.
Valerianne Hinkley, a sophomore at Mt. Blue High School, will be heading south this July to continue her pageant journey after winning the state title two weeks ago. Preparing for the competition started a year ago, when Hinkley realized it was something she wanted to pursue.
“I really wanted to do things with platforms and they help a lot with that. I really wanted to spread my message, which is “Be Bold: Stand up to Bullying,””Hinkley said.
Hinkley’s advocacy against bullying started on its own, before her interest in pageants, but having support from the program has helped shine a light on her mission. Hinkley said she experienced severe bullying herself while at Mt. Blue, and doesn’t want others to go through what she did.
“I was missing a lot of school because of the bullying, and then I realized that wasn’t who I was. So I decided to make people aware of the issue instead,” she said.
She began with a self-designed post-it note project– sticking the colorful squares around the school- each with a positive message that Hinkley said she hoped would reach someone in need. From there Hinkley has gone on to do the project at the middle school, and recently visited Cascade Brook School to hear of their own post-it note project, and to talk about the reality of bullying.
“A lot of them shared stories with me of things that had happened to them at school that were similar to me. It was really sad,” she said.
Hinkley’s mother, Jennie Bouchard Young, said it took six reports of bullying incidences at the high school before action was taken. The concerned parent went as far as to contact local police and the Department of Education to follow up on the reports, none of which had been recorded at state level.
“People think that if bullying isn’t physical than it’s not serious enough for consequences. But we need to stop this,” she said.
Hinkley went on to say that many of her peers have voiced a discomfort with talking to counselors about the issue, due to the fact that often times nothing is done. She said she hopes to see a faster response from guidance counselors and school staff that include consequences for the person doing the bullying, and more education for the rest of the student body and staff.
As part of her anti-bullying platform, the new Miss Teen Maine International is hoping to participate at the state level on making changes to public school bullying laws.
The almost 16-year-old did get to have some fun during the pageant, however, taking a break from her sobering platform.
“I think the “Fun Fashion” competition was my favorite. I got to wear my watermelon dress and I feel like the judges got to see who I am,” she said.
To prepare for the next round of competitions, which will be against young girls from across the globe, Hinkley is raising her own funds to pay for the trip to Charleston. She is currently seeking local sponsors and is accepting donations, which can be made out to Miss Teen Maine International 2018 and dropped off at Franklin Savings Bank.
For more information, contact Hinkley by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call her mother, Jennie, at 491-8954.