Bright Spots in Home Schooling

March 30, 2005  

South Carolina's Junior Miss 2005 learns at home

by Andrea Longbottom

On July 17, 2004, at the Lexington District Three Fine Arts Center in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, 24 contestants nervously awaited the announcement of South Carolina's Junior Miss 2005. When homeschooler Lizzy Tyler learned that she had won the competition, including $8000 in college scholarships, she says she was shocked. "I thought I had heard wrong, but I looked around and everyone was looking at me! I heard my family screaming for me in the crowd."

Seventeen-year-old Lizzy first heard about America's Junior Miss Program through friends who had been involved in it. Through extensive research, Lizzy learned that the program was started in 1957 for high school girls who demonstrate excellence in academics and plan to attend college. Lizzy was impressed with the high standards and goals of Junior Miss; for instance, the program emphasizes community outreach but has no swimsuit competition. "Junior Miss is not a pageant," says Lizzy. "Rather, its emphasis is on academics, articulation, and talent."

After deciding to participate in Junior Miss, Lizzy competed and won at the county level, which enabled her to proceed to the state level, joining 23 other girls from across South Carolina. "I was blown away by how sweet and genuine the girls were," she says, adding that the Junior Miss program is not just about competition. "Even if you don't win a dime, they want you to become friends with one another." During their days of preparation for the final competition, the girls enjoyed picnics, square dancing, and a visit to a nursing home and cancer ward. Vicki Hudson, director of the South Carolina Junior Miss Program and a dedicated Christian, offered constant prayer and encouragement.

On the night of the final round, Lizzy took part in a group fitness routine, tap-danced her way through the individual talent competition, and answered an onstage question. Lizzy's winning score was based on her performance at the final competition, an earlier individual interview with the judges, and her scholastic achievements. "The judges mentioned how articulate and well informed I was for someone my age," says Lizzy. Her mother, Zan Tyler, remembers some of the judges telling her how impressed they were with homeschooling because of Lizzy's excellent performance.

Lizzy says that homeschooling played a significant role in her achievement. Her parents, Joe and Zan Tyler, taught Lizzy and her two older brothers at home from kindergarten through high school. Much of Lizzy's childhood was spent in the South Carolina State House, where her parents, state homeschool leaders, worked to advance homeschool legislation. The Tylers' involvement in South Carolina government prompted Lizzy to educate herself on current events and form opinions about current issues. "Homeschooling has really given me an unmatched self-image," she says, explaining that she knew who she was and what she believed when she walked onstage at the Junior Miss competition. "My mom's done a great job of teaching me who I am and who God created me to be."

Reading the news isn't Lizzy's only hobby. She enjoys speaking, writing, and dancing, and teaches a ballet class for homeschoolers. Lizzy has also kept busy fulfilling the responsibilities of her Junior Miss title, which include visiting competitions in other states and speaking in schools. In fall 2005, Lizzy plans to use her scholarship money to attend Asbury College in Kentucky, where she will study communication.

In June 2005, Lizzy will travel to Mobile, Alabama, to compete at the national level in America's Junior Miss Program. Should she win, she will receive a full college scholarship. "I would strongly encourage girls in their junior year of high school to participate in Junior Miss," says Lizzy. "It requires a great deal of hard work, but it is a fun, growing experience. I consider this one of the most beneficial programs I have ever participated in, and I would feel that way even if I had won no scholarship money."

 Other Resources

Learn more about America's Junior Miss Program at http://www.ajm.org/index.asp.

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