CBN girls shine at pageant
Kora Liegh Russell takes crown; Rowe runner-up
Kora Liegh Russell of Bay Roberts was having a fun weekend taking part in this year’s Miss Teen Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador competition before the winner was announced on Sunday evening. Then it got even better. Russell, 18, was crowned the winner at the Holy Heart of Mary Auditorium in St. John’s on Oct. 17, finishing ahead of 27 other young ladies in the process. For the win, she received $4,000 in scholarship money, half of which she can use to pursue her political science studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
It was a magical evening for for the Conception Bay North region, with Gerianne Rowe of Carbonear also being named first runner-up.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Russell, who graduated this past spring from Ascension Collegiate. “It feels like a great accomplishment.”
She took part in the similarly themed Miss Avalon Achievement competition in May, where she was the second runner-up and claimed the academic excellence and most competitive spirit awards.
“ The previous Miss Avalon Achievement, Sarah Downey, has been one of my really good friends since she moved (to Makinsons) from Labrador City, and she was asking me all year along to take part, and I’m so glad she did.”
Russell has certainly been the determined sort when it comes to keeping herself involved with a variety of different causes. In her last year of high school, she helped co-found a schoolbased chapter of War Child with Victoria French, which helped raise $4,000 to go toward building a school in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Russell now serves as the director of communications for the Oxfam regional leadership team, workshop co-ordinator for the Red Hot Conference at MUN, and is a member of War Child MUN and MUN Oxfam.
It was the Red Hot Conference that first began to peak Russell’s interest in humanitarian matters. The event focuses on social justice issues, and is run by a variety of student-run chapters of larger organizations, such as MUN Oxfam, War Child MUN, and Engineers Without Borders.
She says the plight of children in developing nations is a subject that deeply affects her.
“ They have so many things they could be doing, but they don’t have the opportunities there. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one in four girls can’t go to school, because most of the schools were closed in the Congolian war. These children have done nothing to deserve to live in an impoverished community or country. I just think helping them is going to make the world a much better place. I think children is our best place to start, because, as we always say, children are the future.“
Her interests in human rights and social causes are currently motivating her own studies. Once she finishes her bachelor’s degree, Russell says she hopes to enrol in an international development program for post-graduate studies.
Ashika Iqeal, a co-ordinator for the Red Hot Conference, has been a pivotal influence on Russell’s championing of social causes. Russell also is thankful for the positive influence of her biology teacher, Patricia George, and her mother, Marie Norman.
“ There are many people who’ve inspired me — too many to list,” she laughs.
For the competition, Russell gave a speech on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which were initially drafted in September 2000 before being re-evaluated last month. The eight international development goals, focusing on issues like poverty and disease, are to be achieved by 2015.
“ My main concern with the Millennium Development Goals is that it’s 2010, the goals were supposed to be accomplished by 2015, and we haven’t accomplished any of these goals yet. I guess five years is kind of pushing it. I’m trying to educate people on these goals, because most people don’t even know what they are.”
She also fielded an impromptu question on the importance of War Child to her as part of the final judging process for the top eight contestants. Carbonear student surprised Rowe, a 17-year-old senior at Carbonear Collegiate, not expect to do as well as she did.
“ My goal was top eight, and I didn’t even think I was going to make that,” says Rowe, who hopes to eventually study pharmacology and medicine. “ There were so many amazing girls there, and they were all very talented and intelligent. I felt very fortunate to have had first runner-up, for sure.”
Rowe is the student council president at Carbonear Collegiate, and takes part in music, softball and cheerleading. Outside of school, she sings and volunteers with Girl Guides of Canada.
Her favourite part of taking part in events like the Miss Teen Achievement pageant is having the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. She also says taking part helps build up a person’s confidence.
For her own speech, Rowe chose to discuss the importance of volunteerism.
“My parents have always helped me become involved in the community. I’m a volunteer with a lot of different organizations, so it’s something that’s really important to me, and something I’ve always done.”
Rowe has also been in French immersion since Grade 7, and fielded a question on how she would promote the benefits of second-language education to youth in the province.
Public speaking is hardly a stretch for Rowe, who last May took part in a national French speak-off in Ottawa.
Rowe won a scholarship from the University of Ottawa through the speak-off, and also received a $1,000 scholarship for finishing as the first runner-up at the pageant.
Meanwhile, as the winner of the Miss Teen Achievement title, Russell says she will be expected to make appearances at numerous events, including Santa Claus parades and the St. John’s Women’s International Film Festival. She also hopes to champion World AIDS Day, promote donating blood, Daffodil Place, the Janeway, and other causes and institutions.
“I’d really love to get into high schools and talk ... about the importance of volunteering, becoming involved in the community, and selfimage, because that’s a big problem with our youth today.”
Russell says it was a fun weekend, particularly given all the other girls on hand for the competition were so fun to be around. She also commends the efforts of the pageant organizers, Joanne March and Kathy Dicks-Peyton.
“ You make fantastic friends,” she says. “ We have so much fun, and you get to meet all kinds of great people. They’re the kind of people who will be with you for the rest of your life.”
Submitted photo by Eric Bartlett The top three finalists for the 2010 Miss Teen Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador were, from the left, Gerianne Rowe of Carbonear (first runner-up), Kora Liegh Russell of Bay Roberts (winner), and Jenna Kelly of Marystown.
Submitted photo by Kevin LaFleur Last year’s Miss Teen Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador, Kayla Carroll, awards the crown to the 2010 winner, Kora Liegh Russell of Bay Roberts, during the pageant on Oct. 17.