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Trio finds new friends at state Junior Miss

Sarah Nielsen, Hannah Barganier and Lori Fail represented their home counties last week at the state Junior Miss/Distinguished Young Women program in Montgomery. The intensity of that week of rehearsals, interviews, performances and special events taking place throughout the Capitol City left the three Fort Dale Acamdey seniors with a bevy of special memories and new friendships, the girls say.

“My favorite thing was meeting a lot of girls from all over the state-that was exciting,” Barganier, Lowndes County’s Junior Miss and future Troy University student, said.

Nielsen, Conecuh County’s Junior Miss, agreed. “It was so much fun to meet all those girls. I actually found my college roommate at Alabama! It was something so special we all got to experience together,” Nielsen said.

Fail, Butler County’s Junior Miss, said she also found the girl she plans to room with at Auburn.

“Basically, we came home with 53 new friends. We’ve talked about what the week was like with classmates. But, really, no one else understands unless you’ve been there . . . we all had the same sorts of problems and we could all relate to one another,” Fail said.

And relating and relying on each other is important when you can’t fall back on your parents.

Each girl stayed with a host family last week and none of them were allowed to use their phone for more than ten minutes at night. That’s right: a 21st century teen denied access to their cell phone.

“At first I really thought I would miss it, but I found out it was a neat experience to not have a phone for a week,” Nielsen laughed.

Their activity-filled week left the three students with little time to feel homesick.

According to Nielsen, the camaraderie present among the 54 participants was impressive.

“You had all these really nice girls, dealing with the same issues you deal with, and sharing the same values and morals we had. You just don’t get to experience that everywhere,” Nielsen said.

“I have to admit, I was sad to leave them. Even though I was glad to get back home, I really was sorry to leave all those girls.”

Fail nodded in agreement. “You’d have to say it was bittersweet.”

The three FDA students have already been in touch with their newfound friends via Facebook and text messages.

In addition to new friendships, newly found confidence was another thing the girls say they discovered.

For Barganier, the state program was her first time on a stage, normally an intimidating experience for most people.

“I got a lot of encouragement and learned to encourage others. We prayed together before we’d go out and I wasn’t nervous,” Barganier said.

Now she is talking with her host mother about getting a full-fledged county program started in Lowndes.

The three girls agree the Distinguished Young Women Program, as Junior Miss is now called, requires a lot of time, energy and talent.

“But it is definitely worth it,” Fail said.

Nielsen would like to see more high school seniors across the area get involved with the program.

“People think it’s another beauty pageant, and it’s really not. It’s why they are changing the name,” Nielsen.

“You don’t have to be the prettiest girl; you just have to be the best you can be. They are looking for the girl who is developing as a whole person, not just outward looks. I really think every girl should participate in some way, either as a Little Sister or in the program itself.”

The Butler County Junior Miss director, FDA instructor Starla Jones, just celebrated 30th anniversary as Dale County’s Junior Miss.

“I was so glad to announce during the Has Been Walk that I was the proud teacher of these three participants,” Jones said. To have three of the 54 girls from the same senior class is history making. They represented their counties and our school in an exemplary manner, too.”