Kamryn Eller isn’t afraid of challenges. Now a sophomore at High Point University in North Carolina, she rechartered the school’s Circle K International club as a freshman with three members. Today, the club has 64 members, and Eller is the club president and a Carolinas District lieutenant governor.
So, when her freshman-year roommate, Bayli Alley, a pageant enthusiast, fellow CKI member and current Carolinas District bulletin editor, suggested the club hold a pageant as a fundraiser, Eller was curious. And in a bit of serendipity, Eller made an interesting find as she was reviewing yearbooks from what was then High Point College for a class on the university’s history. In a 1973 yearbook, she discovered an article on a Miss High Point College pageant.
“I went back to my roommate, and I was like, ‘Remember how you said last year you wanted to use a pageant as a fundraiser?’”
That’s how the Miss High Point University pageant was born. CKI members began working on plans in late August 2022, with a pageant date set for October 21. It was a tight timeline, made more challenging with Eller’s unfamiliarity with what a pageant involves.
“I actually have modeled before, so I’ve put on shows that were similar in a sense to choreographing the stage,” she explains. “So I knew a little bit about that, but I had no idea how the scores were broken down, any of the actual judging.”
Alley’s pageant experience, however, was extensive, including participating in the Miss North Carolina Teen USA event. And she was willing to share that knowledge to help raise money for Brick x Brick, CKI’s new project in partnership with UNICEF USA. Brick x Brick works to build a sustainable future through education and empowerment for families in the African nation of Côte d’Ivoire.
The CKI club’s board fully supported the project, and other university organizations got behind it as well. The university allowed CKI free use of its fine arts auditorium for the pageant, and nearly 20 campus organizations put up a representative to compete on their behalf ― something that was especially gratifying to Eller.
“My biggest goal, and honestly in any position that I hold on campus, is to bring organizations together, because I feel like there’s a very big gap between different clubs and even Greek life on our campus,” she says. “So it was the first event that actually combined clubs and organizations and Greek life into one event.”
To raise money, the planning team introduced a People’s Choice category. Each organization sponsoring a candidate competed to gain the most donations to Brick x Brick through the CrowdChange fundraising platform. The winning organization’s candidate would automatically pass through the first of three competition rounds and would be crowned People’s Choice at the pageant’s conclusion.
“About 90 percent of (funds) came from the teams raising money for their candidates to be People’s Choice,” Eller says. “Our People’s Choice (winner), Isabella Vitali, raised over, I believe, US$2,000 by herself. The rest (of the money) came from ticket sales. And we had a couple of donations at the door.”
Adding to the pageant’s appeal were the celebrity judges the club acquired. Alley used her pageant connections to invite Miss North Carolina USA Morgan Romano and Miss North Carolina Teen USA Gabby Ortega, both of whom eagerly agreed to attend. And student favorite Lovelle McMichael, assistant director for the university’s Center for Community Engagement, joined in as well.
The Kiwanis Club of High Point also provided vital support ― and not for the first time.
“Our Kiwanis club honestly has been huge in our success over the past year,” Eller explains. “They have been nothing but supportive and beyond supportive. I honestly cannot even say enough how much they’ve helped us. We had donations for the pageant, and a lot of them came in from Kiwanis. … They were so excited.”
In all, the event raised more than $11,000 for Brick X Brick ― and as a bonus, CKI received an abundance of free publicity.
“I have heard nothing but good words from everybody,” Eller says. “It was posted all over everybody’s social media, talking about how honored they were not only to compete, but to have competed to raise money for UNICEF. I was really happy that they also took that into consideration. Every single contestant genuinely was there because they also wanted to support the cause.”
“This experience was so special for me, as I got to work with amazing people, support an organization that is important to me and help raise (money) for UNICEF,” says Adriana Myers, the newly crowned Miss High Point University 2022, who competed as Miss Kappa Delta. (She’s also a CKI member.) “I was so surprised to win the title and am honored to be named the first Miss High Point University.”
With the inaugural pageant in the books, the CKI club is already planning a second one in 2023. It will join the club’s event roster as a fall fundraiser in addition to the annual campuswide Walk for Water held each spring. And members expect another enthusiastic group of pageant candidates, encouraged by the event’s focus on character, confidence and charity.
“From the beginning, we knew this project would be a big commitment with an even bigger impact,” says Genna Manger, the CKI club’s treasurer and a Carolinas District lieutenant governor. “The pageant not only brought our team and club together, but also the entire university.
“This uplifting encouragement with all things aside from beauty standards for all of our students was so incredible. Our campus became closer, and the energy brought to this event was something that cannot be explained in just a few sentences. We are beyond grateful to have this opportunity to bring everyone together and generate funds to such an impactful cause for this world that is in need of good.”