Hendrickson wants to help build confidence, hope for teens across the state in coming months
As soon as the crown went on, Miss Kansas 2021 Outstanding Teen's year of service began, and she hit the ground running, eager to "be a blessing" to all she meets in the days, weeks and months ahead. With paperwork to fill out and platform plans to share, Gracie Hendrickson, Miss Johnson County, she said her whole life seemed to have been leading up to this point and she was very happy to take the next step.
"It's really been a journey," Hendrickson said. "I've always been super independent and have been exposed to so many great opportunities to share my gifts and talents with others. At 9 years of age I competed in my first pageant during a Fourth of July event and I sang a song, 'Lord I'm Ready Now' with my guitar teacher playing in the background. I still remember those words. I feel my life has led to this point."
Hendrickson, from Newton, is part of an athletic family and a three-sport athlete herself. Her parents, Todd and Lynette Hendrickson, own several chiropractic offices in central Kansas, place where Gracie grew up to recognize good and bad ways to handle pain.
"I want to use this position to reach out to others and to be a role model in helping others, particularly teens, to find positive ways to deal with pain," Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson has chosen 'I Stand - Teens Against Drug Abuse,' as her platform for her year of service with the Miss Kansas organization and plans to share her stories of opioid addiction in a family member as well as provide positive information and options for teens with mental health and injury issues.
"There is so much misinformation out there about alcohol and drug abuse," Hendrickson said. "Teens are told that 80-90 percent of high schoolers drink, but recent studies and fact-based surveys show that actually only 20 percent drink. Just knowing the facts helps reduce peer pressure to do something that would be harmful."
Hendrickson said she wants to promote healthy bodies, healthy lifestyles, making healthy choices and finding ways to reduce personal anxiety.
As a busy teen, Hendrickson said she deals with her own anxiety through sports or baking.
"I just get a lot of enjoyment being athletic on the court, playing volleyball, basketball and track," she said. "On my own, I like to bake. I find that relaxing."
Hendrickson said she hopes to bring a message of hope and confidence-building to others her own age who might be self-medicating with drugs found in home cabinets or alcohol.
"Those things really don't take the pain away," she said. "We need, in our society, to get better at treating the entire body, not just outward symptoms. It's so sad to see the drug abuse going on at middle school and high school levels that could be helped with just a positive role model, someone to talk to, some way to build self-confidence."
Hendrickson already has a good track record of taking a stand against teens and drug use as she has participated for several years with the Harvey County Police Department during Drug Take-Back Days. She also has positive tips for those dealing with social media issues and promotes using filters and block methods when cyber-bullying occurs.
"There is a lot of good that can be accomplished with social media, it's a great connection when used in the right way," she said. "But there is no need to take part in the negativity that also occurs there. It is not okay to be mean. We need to use that which builds us up, not tears us down."
With experience gained as a Princess of America Junior Ambassador and several Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen competitions under her belt, Hendrickson is ready to go out and be a blessing to others. It's a mantra she hears often from her mother.
"My mom has always been there for me," she said. "We get a lot of bonding time when on the road driving to competitions. She has helped shape me in many ways and always encouraged me to help others."
Hendrickson said her goal is to be the same girl on the stage that she is when off the stage - one filled with hope and help for others, sharing confidence, kindness and compassion, as she works to represent Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen and the Miss Kansas organization this year.
Hendrickson will make several appearances during the 2021 Miss Kansas Competition that is planned for July 8, 9 and 10 in Pratt. She is currently preparing for the Miss America's Outstanding Teen Competition which is July 27-30 in Orlando, Florida.