Cheryl Franklin

Grove Sun

The new Miss Grand Lake has been crowned and will represent Grand Lake in the Miss Oklahoma pageant next year. But, there is another person that needs to be crowned since she is a queen – the queen of the Miss Grand Lake Pageant.

For 32 years, Jeanne Whitely has been taking on the role of directing the pageant. As director, one of her passions is getting the contestants ready to compete in the Miss Oklahoma pageant.

The Miss Oklahoma pageant has seen seven winners that have come out of the Miss Grand Lake Pageant and one that went on to be Miss America and this is no coincidence.

However, Whitely says it’s her desire to help build the lives of young ladies so they can be leaders in their communities one day that keeps her involved in the program.

“We have to teach them how to be community volunteers and it has to come from somewhere. You have to teach them how to be dedicated not only to a situation but to a lifestyle education choice,” said Whitely.

Whitely, who has been a community leader in the Grand Lake area, says some of that just doesn’t come natural for some young women.

“All of those things have to be taught. They learn self esteem comes from achieving, it comes from working for something and seeing a reward for it,” she says.

She goes on to explain, “Just like with football teams you can’t expect to win everyday but you don’t quit going; you keep playing.”

The pageant, which is a scholarship pageant, has helped many students through the years get through college, Whitely said.

“The contestant that was crowned the new outstanding Miss Outstanding Oklahoma Teen has now received a scholarship for another year of college – and so now three quarters of her college education is already paid for.

“They work real hard on a platform, something that interests them, be it diabetes, Alzheimer’s or whatever. That is something we have to train people to do and we’re starting at this point.”

A lot of the girls started out in the Star Program, a mentoring program started by the Miss Oklahoma pageant for children 5-10 years old. Whitley says many girls start out in that program and then go on to the Teen program and then the Miss and then community leaders and sometimes in their state and around the nation.

Whitely says that the program is in need of more volunteers to help recruit and secure scholarship moneys for the program. There were years that the pageant was in jeopardy because of the lack of volunteers to help organize the pageant.

“It’s a project is worth doing, it’s a goal to watch these young women achieve and become whatever they want to,” she said.

“I’m trying to get more people involved, it’s hard to get people involved in more than what their immediate needs are but if they do it’s such a project that’s worth doing,” she said.

“This kind of a project requires that you be a server, we don’t have a lot of servers out there anymore.”

Some of the other people serving on the committee for the pageant include: Cheno Kenney, Nancy Dykes, Joyce Gibson, and Denise Deakins.

“It’s important for everyone to see the worth of our women in Oklahoma who have the highest pregnancy rates, the highest obesity rate. Let’s find something that we can be high in that’s an accomplishment,” Whitely said. “They are all wanting to try, they are ready to accomplish something and you just can’t but want to help them get there.”

Whitely says Grove school, where the pageant is held, has been very supportive knowing that it’s all about the scholarships and education. She said that the schools are always looking for ways to help inspire young woman so they don’t get in trouble.

“This is how we train them, this is how we give them something else to look forward to. This is why we are still doing it at 70 years old and some of us almost 80. It makes a difference, I love it.”