CBN girls shine at pageant

Kora Liegh Rus­sell takes crown; Rowe run­ner-up

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON arobin­son@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

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