Many University of Missouri–St Louis students are spending their summers waiting tables or doing internships, but one senior is spending her summer months competing in pageants.
Katie Johnson, a communication major, was crowned Missouri’s Miss Amazing in April. She’ll be competing at the national Miss Amazing pageant Aug. 6 to 9 in Omaha, Neb. Miss Amazing is a pageant for girls and women with disabilities, established in 2007 as a way to help participants build confidence in a supportive environment.
Johnson, who has cerebral palsy, lives in Richwoods, Mo., and takes classes online. She graduated from McCluer North High School in Florissant, Mo., in 2000 and previously studied at St. Louis Community College and East Central College. Her studies at UMSL are helping to prepare her to work with others who have disabilities.
“I want to work with people with disabilities to achieve their dreams and accomplish the goals that they set for themselves and to believe in anyone who supports them no matter what,” said Johnson. “This is something that I have learned to do.”
Johnson learned of Miss Amazing’s Missouri pageant from a case worker. She entered for the first time this year and was crowned Missouri’s Miss Amazing at a ceremony in April in St. Charles, Mo., while wearing a red evening gown and a wide smile.
“I was so excited to have been through the experience and gain new knowledge and inspire others, which is really important to me,” Johnson said. “To be able to go to nationals and inspire others even more is important to me.”
Even though she was thrilled to win the pageant, Johnson was rooting for all of her fellow contestants, she said.
Johnson has also inspired her classmates at UMSL, Leigh Heisel, associate teaching professor of communication said. In one course, Communication Barriers and Children, she was able to discuss her own experience to class discussions about preconceived notions that others may have about people who have speech differences due to illness or injury, Heisel said.
“Katie brought a valuable perspective to the class and shared it willingly, which vastly expanded the students’ understanding of differences,” Heisel said. “She has routinely been a wonderful contributor and a consistently hard worker with an attitude that truly inspires others to strive to do better. I always enjoy having her in my classes.”