Miss Virginia 2008, Tara Wheeler, has lived life defining herself and encouraging others to do the same. She has been an ice hockey goalie since the 3rd grade, was the starting goalie for the Penn State Lady Icers and even got to try out for the women's Olympic team. While at Penn State she was also an Air Force Cadet, completing officer boot camp at the top of her flight, earning her the opportunity to fly a trainer jet. She received an honorable discharge from the Air Force Reserves in 2006. It was at Penn State where Tara decided to be more pro-active in her desire to empower America's youth. She founded an organization called "Positive Role Models Building Powerful Women" (Pos-Pow), dedicated to building self-esteem and leadership skills in young women through breaking stereotypes. Tara was invited to represent Pos-Pow at the United Nations World Headquarters in New York City to be a part of the Redlight Children Campaign launch against child exploitation.
It was also around this time that Tara began participating in the Miss America program. Miss America is the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world and is anything but a beauty pageant and the contestants rarely fit that stereotype. Miss America is dedicated to fostering talented, intelligent young women who are driven to make a difference in their communities. In the four years Tara has been a part of the Miss America program she has earned over $23,000 for her education and promoted her platform to tens of thousands of youth.
Tara graduated from Penn State in 2006 with a degree in journalism. Before being crowned Miss Virginia, Tara worked as a motivational speaker for the Making It Count Organization and as a residential counselor for the girls program at the Joe Gibbs Youth For Tomorrow group home. She will spend her year travelling the state of Virginia and working to empower America's youth through breaking stereotypes and building leadership skills. She will compete for the title of Miss America in January.
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Story posted with permission from WUSA-TV Washington, DC. Originally published July 16, 2008.
Submitted by Anonymous
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