By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
University Communication FHSU
Taylor Clark is grateful for all the scholarships she has earned by participating in the Miss Kansas Organization (MKO) since she was 5 years old.
Clark, who now wears the title of Miss Kansas, wants other young women to experience the same kind of opportunities.
Shortly after being crowned Miss Kansas 2021 last July, Clark decided to try to expand scholarship opportunities for Miss Kansas contestants. Many community colleges and a few private four-year colleges have partnered with the Miss Kansas Scholarship Program for years. But there were no public four-year universities on this list.
Last month, Fort Hays State University became the first institution in the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) system to join this partnership with the Miss Kansas organization, establishing an in-kind scholarship program that will begin later this year. school year 2022-23.
Clark contacted KBOR, who sent her to the various universities. Fort Hays State jumped on board immediately.
The FHSU program has multiple tiers, highlighted by a full undergraduate scholarship—renewable for three years—to winners of the Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Pageant in March and the Miss Kansas Pageant in June.
The full scholarship will be worth over $14,000 per year. But the Fort Hays State Scholarship Program offers so much more. It includes annual scholarships of $2,000 for those who finish first through fourth runners-up, and all other applicants will earn scholarships of $1,000 per year. All of these scholarships can be combined with other eligible FHSU scholarships. Questions about these scholarships can be directed by calling the FHSU Admissions Office at 785-628-5666.
“I’m really excited about this scholarship program,” Clark said. “I started hoping for a $2,000 scholarship for our top winners. But Fort Hays State wanted to go beyond. The night I got the email from FHSU with the breakdown, I was ecstatic.
Joey Linn, vice president of student affairs at Fort Hays State, said joining the partnership with MKO was an easy decision.
“It’s part of our DNA here at Fort Hays State University to find ways to promote and support student success,” Linn said. “Applicants to the MKO program are exactly the type of hardworking, determined and dedicated students we want in our Tiger family. We are excited to expand our opportunities and keep our talented women here in Kansas.
Clark grew up in St. John, just 25 miles from Pratt – home of the Miss Kansas pageant. She took part in the Sunflower Princess mentorship program when she was 5 years old and was hooked. She has since competed in age-divided MKO programs, with the exception of her first two years of college at Kansas State University. She was crowned Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen in 2017.
“I decided at a very young age that I wanted to be Miss Kansas one day and make an impact,” Clark said. “Then when I won two talent awards at the national Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant, it confirmed that I wanted to be Miss Kansas.”
She is definitely fulfilling her dream of making an impact.
Clark’s Miss Kansas platform is “Sound for Common Ground: Music Connects”. She travels all over the state and begins her presentation with a musical activity called “Bucket Beats”. She invites participants to make music with her, encouraging them to talk about whatever they want. She then gives each participant a pair of chopsticks. Last weekend, Clark also started a new partnership with Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters and plans to host several matches with BBBS.
Clark entered the Miss America pageant in December. Although she didn’t make the final, she said the experience was invaluable – as were all her years of competing in Miss Kansas programs. She also won a $3,000 participation scholarship and enjoyed representing Kansas.
Clark is busy in her final months wearing the Miss Kansas crown. She has already made appearances in 300 events. After crowning her successor Miss Kansas in June, Clark will complete her senior year at KSU in 2022-23 and graduate with a music education degree in May 2023. She said the experiences she gained during her years at within the Miss Kansas organization are empowering and will be invaluable for years to come.
“The Miss Kansas program prepares great women for the world,” she said, “by setting up a launching pad for learning the best version of ourselves and gaining professional skills. The personal and professional skills that a person acquires through this organization are very transformative. They don’t try to change us. They are trying to make us into career-minded young women.
Clark first visited FHSU trustees in January and returned to campus last week with Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Gracie Hendrickson, a 17-year-old high school student from Newton. Their day began at a local preschool, where Clark and Hendrickson performed an age-appropriate leadership activity with the children. They also had time to visit the campus.
“FHSU rolled out the red carpet for me on my first visit,” Clark said, “and again this week. Each time, it’s been a great day to learn more about the state of Fort Hays. What I learned is that they really care about the students.
About Miss Kansas: According to her website, the Miss Kansas Scholarship Program is for single women between the ages of 19 and 26. The Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Program is for young women ages 13 and older. The Sunflower program is for kids ages 5-12 and is a great way to learn more about Teen and Miss. The Sunflower Program is a mentorship program for children ages 5-12 who want to learn more about citizenship, leadership, volunteerism and have a future interest in Miss Kansas’ Outstanding Teen and Miss Kansas programs.
Miss Kansas candidates at both the state and local levels gain experience by participating in interviews, talent performances, public speaking, promoting initiatives individual social impact and interaction with social/digital media. Scholarships in cash and in kind are offered to all young women who present themselves for the state competition. To learn more about Miss Kansas, visit www.misskansas.org.