Kennedy is an autism advocate with a lot of heart. Today she is Miss Nebraska Nationwide 2015 and does a great deal to help others in the community. We talked to Kennedy recently about her platform and all of her amazing work she’s been doing…
Kerry: Hi Kennedy! When did you first realize competing in pageants would be a possibility?
Kennedy: When I was nine I received a letter in the mail from National American Miss asking if I would be interested in competing in their state pageant. Although I did not know anything about the pageant world, I learned so much just in that first time competing and fell in love with their confidence building system for young girls!
We love your platform “Until Every Piece Fits!” How did that name come about and what does it mean to you?
Thanks! I knew when I was competing in the state pageant for the Miss Nationwide system I wanted to use autism as my platform, and coming up with a name to stand out and grab peoples attention was really important to me. I thought it was really cool how the symbol for autism awareness is a puzzle piece and because everyone with this developmental disorder is so unique in their own way I knew that by incorporating the actually symbol would be a great fit, all these individuals are so different from one another but they all come together and relate from one thing.
I think this will make people realize that we can’t solve this puzzle until we come up with the right approach to raise not only money for the research but the proper awareness, the key facts that will draw interest in this important topic. Until every piece fits.
How has it been to be part of Alpha Xi Delta and be able to be involved in the autism community as a result?
It’s been so amazing. I truly can’t put into words how much not only Alpha Xi Delta has changed my life but the entire greek system. I fell in love with Alpha Xi during recruitment last fall on philanthropy day, a girl spoke to me with so much passion about Autism Speaks. I learned so much that day about how Alpha Xi Delta helps so many families around the nation and it really was a touching moment for me.
Autism hits home to so many people and as for me, after my neighbor was diagnosed I knew I just wanted to learn more and become involved as much as possible. We host various events throughout the year reaching out to families around the community to have the chance to see the money and awareness we raise for them and their children. The best moment is being told by parents how thankful they are that people are listening and they don’t feel alone in this.
What has been one of your favorite events you’ve been able to participate in as an autism advocate?
I have had numerous opportunities to attend events with my sorority and as Miss Nebraska Nationwide. Each one has been an unforgettable experience for me. However, an event coming up on September 27th in the Haymarket of Lincoln NE is an event I am really looking forward to.
I have been asked to emcee at the official Walk Now for Autism and I am so excited to meet more families who are touched by this. I love hearing their stories, and finding out more about each individual. I have consistently been told that once you meet a person with autism you have met one person with autism. I learn more and more each time I meet someone.
You have clearly been seen as a role model in your local community for your efforts towards spreading awareness for autism. Do you have anyone you look up to in our community?
I remember in high school the first time I really researched autism for a speech I was going to give. A name that wasn’t familiar kept popping up which was Temple Grandin. Not really giving it much thought I typed the name in my search bar and began to really learn who this individual was. I couldn’t believe how much this woman accomplished and how hard she pushed herself.
I was so impressed with everything I read and the videos I watched. She really inspired me to keep pushing myself not only in my own personal struggles but also pushing myself to learn more about this topic and focus on changing peoples minds on the stereotype of autism. My favorite quote of hers is “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do, instead of what he cannot do.” We all are unique in our own way autism or not. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and by encouraging a child with their strengths can definitely open doors to amazing things for them.
What has been one of the most rewarding things about volunteering to you?
Working one on one with some of the children. Many people can only learn so much from books and the internet and others telling them about autism. Nevertheless, when I get the chance to attend birthday parties, or volunteer at the elementary school in my hometown, it really gives me a chance to know the children and be the voice for them.
I love when parents faces light up when they see their child is happy. It can be stressful, scary, and sometimes very hectic so just seeing them feel at ease and knowing they aren’t alone is definitely very rewarding to me.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you very much for your support! I appreciate it so much and like I said I love being the voice for these families. This isn’t an illness or something people need to fear. But instead be patient and try to see things from the individual’s perspective. I learn so much everyday and that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have our own unique way of thinking and doing things.