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Meet Miss Western Illinois 2023, Rhiannon Graham!

Hello everyone! My name is Rhiannon Graham and I am your Miss Western Illinois 2023! I am so excited to introduce myself to the Miss Mississippi Crown community and share my love for the Miss America Organization!

I am a 2023 graduate of Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science. I am proud to say I am not only a first-generation student but I also graduated with honors. At ISU I majored in Criminal Justice Sciences and minored in Psychology. While not in classes, I served as a Student Life Senator through the Student Government Association, Executive Board of Alpha Phi Sigma The Criminal Justice Honors Society, a member of the Criminal Justice Association, a Leader for The Emerging Leader Program, and I was a sister of Alpha Delta Pi! Currently, I am applying to Master's programs to further my education and use the scholarship money I've earned through MAO! My career plans are to become an advocate for children in the criminal justice system. I have competed in Pageants since I was 3 years old and I credit all my success in my professional and academic life to it. Throughout Pageants and The Miss America Organization, I have learned interview skills, public speaking skills, confidence, volunteerism, and more. I volunteer my time mentoring girls in my community by being the Assistant Director of The Winthrop Harbor Pageant and Community Service Program, which is also the first pageant I ever competed in at just 3 years old!

Throughout MAO I started as a princess, then a preteen, and now a Miss. My journey to becoming Miss Western Illinois didn't happen overnight. In 2021 I decided to chase my lifelong dream of competing for the title of Miss Illinois by entering my first local. I competed in 9 locals over 3 years before I earned my first local title. Some people may see competing with that many locals as failure, but I don't see it that way at all. Every time I competed in a local I grew not only in pageantry but as a person. I learned so much and met so many friends all over the state of Illinois and America! After many first runner-ups and a Miss Congeniality award, I received the title of Miss Western Illinois 2023 which led me to the Miss Illinois 2023! Pageants provided me with positive role models at a young age that I so very needed, I grew up with a single mother who I have dedicated my community service initiative to. My CSI “Single But Not Alone - Advocating For Single Parents” is partnered with local and national organizations that help single parents and their children. I strive to provide the three basic essentials of safety, food, and shelter for these single families. Throughout my work I have also visited elementary classrooms and read the books Two Homes and Family Means, then sharing my story of growing up in an untraditional household. I also advocate for college scholarships to be awarded to students of single parents. When I visit elementary schools, many children can be shy and overwhelmed, that's why I recently enrolled my Golden Retriever - Biscuit in Therapy Dog Classes! After Biscuit passes the class he will be able to visit classrooms with me and help more children come out of their shells while I share my message of overcoming adversity. Did you know until Single But Not Alone, there was no awareness color or ribbon supporting single parents? My CSI created a gold ribbon (gold being my mom's favorite color) to spread awareness for single-parent households and I am proud to wear it to show my support to these families.

Miss Illinois week was everything I dreamed of and more. I have grown so close with the MMC Dream Team and I am so grateful for the sisterhood I share between Megan, Marley, Lucy, Emma, Jessica, the entire Miss Illinois class of 2023, and who could forget our MMC Princesses Coraleigh, Addy, Izzy, and Aubree! Having 2 other Miss sisters through MMC created a sisterhood I know will last forever. From our 3 am hotel room chats, encouraging each other through the tiredness, and even getting help self-tanning my back, I have created bonds that will last for the rest of my life. I was honored to be named a STEM Finalist at Miss Illinois. My Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Sciences and Psychology is often a male-dominated field and is not always appreciated under STEM, so hearing my name called as a finalist meant the world to me. It was also so special to share Miss Illinois week with my “Little Sister” Ava, she reminded me every day why I was a part of this organization, for little girls like her who have big dreams and look up to us as titleholders. I can remember looking up to my Misses when I was in the Princess Program around her age, it is a very full circle moment for me. But my favorite part of Miss Illinois week was watching my sister queen, Miss Quad Cities, Jess be crowned Miss Illinois. If you watch the video I am standing behind her and had immediate tears when hearing her name announced as Miss Illinois, the rush and emotion I felt in that moment watching my sister queen and one of my best friends be crowned was a memory I'll never forget. I am so grateful for Team MMC that constantly poured into me with prep, support, and love! The MMC Dream Team made my first title as a Miss unforgettable. Every maybe, not yet, I don't know, and no led me to become Miss Western Illinois. Hard work and dedication do pay off, and dreams do come true. I am honored to be a titleholder through the Miss America organization and I can't see where the rest of this journey takes me! Please continue to follow my journey at Miss Western Illinois 2023 on both Instagram and Facebook! XOXO

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