Ten-year old Emma Schroeder will enter fifth grade at Peabody-Burns Elementary School this year with a ready-made answer if asked about her summer vacation. She spent part of it as a member of the swim team, part of it hanging out with friends, and part of it preparing to compete in the Kansas pre-teen division of the National American Miss Pageant in Wichita, where she qualified to attend the national competition in November.
“Emma was one of 73 contestants in her age division, 10- to 12-year olds,” said her father, Darren Schroeder. “The girls have options about categories they compete in. All of them go through a personal introduction, evening gown competition, and an interview. After that, they can choose from several others like talent, casual wear, or spokesmodel. Emma chose to compete in the spokesmodel category.”
The spokesmodel contestants selected a topic and prepared and memorized a 1½ minute speech. Five finalists were selected by the judges and the top three made public presentations at the finale. Emma made it into the top three.
“Of the top five, one was on having a firm handshake, three were on bullying, and mine was on positive body image,” Emma said. “After the three of us finished our presentations, they announced the second runner-up, then the first runner-up, and I realized my name hadn’t been called yet. I looked at my family and they were hugging. People were standing and clapping and my brother Garrett was high-fiving, and I thought, ‘Oh my, I must have won.’ I was proud to hear my name called. It was very exciting.”
“She did an excellent job, and when she finished, you could have heard a pin drop and then applause that was loud and long,” said her father. “There were people in tears and she had lots of compliments.”
Emma had the choice of being named Miss Spokesmodel or Miss Peabody, Kan. She selected the name of her community.
“I am proud to represent my town,” she said.
“One couple came up to her when it was over and the woman had tears in her eyes,” said Darren. “She told Emma that Peabody must be a fine town if it has young people who think like Emma. I thought that was a nice thing for a stranger to say.”
Placing first in the Kansas competition will allow Emma to represent her community and state in the National American Miss competition Thanksgiving week in Anaheim, Calif. She will compete in spokesmodel category and give the same speech.
Emma said she selected the topic about a positive body image because she feels girls are forced into being overly concerned about their looks or their weight. She said bullying about such issues adds to the pressure. She would like to help other young girls change the way they think.
“I have always been built like this,” she said. “I may never be able to change that, but I like myself the way I am. Whether I win in California or not, I will still be myself and I would still like to share my ideas.”
Darren Schroeder said Emma sold cinnamon rolls to cover the cost of her $250 entry fee in the state competition.
“This whole thing has been good for her. She willingly took on the business of covering the costs,” he said. “This all started because someone — and we don’t know who — submitted her name to the pageant committee, she went to an interview, and was selected before the 2012 competition. We appreciate the fact that the younger girls aren’t allowed to wear make-up and the emphasis is on ability, talent, and personality rather than beauty.
“We are very proud of Emma and the stand she has taken. We feel she has had a positive experience,” he said.