Posted: Jun 23, 2013 8:48 PM by Dustin Klemann - MTN News
Updated: Jun 23, 2013 8:48 PM
BILLINGS - For Sheridan Pope, her journey to Atlantic City began last week when she was crowned 2013 Miss Montana.
The small-town girl from Sidney claims she had "runner-up"-itis, never quite able to break away from the competition to grab the tiara and spread her message.
When Pope's name was announced as this year's Miss Montana, it took a few days for it to sink in.
"[It's] total gratitude. Whether I had the crown or not, I was going to continue my efforts with disabilities awareness," she said.
It's not only tap dance that Pope will perform on stage, but also her passion of raising disability awareness; "Recognize disability, promote opportunities. Our previous title-holder Alex Wiseman and she was a woman with autism and helped spread her message. It's cool being her successor. My message is more to the neuro-typical person on how they can incorporate disabilities as an opportunity and learn from one another."
Her family are the ones who have shaped the path she takes as her older sister has mild to severe autism. Pope is a senior at Minnesota State University where she is studying special education. With her nomination to represent Montana, her studies will take a back seat for a year.
"It's absolutely crazy the things I've learned and my friends have learned through being involved with my family. That's what I want to help promote in communities-- is that inclusion," Pope said.
Of course, she's still practicing her walk on stage, "I'm kind of a shrimp. 5'1", 5'2", so [I'm] learning to walk in heels."
But, it won't only be the heels to give her that lift through competition. It's also her hometown of Sidney providing support.
"They were helping me with my fundraising for 'Miracle Children's Network', which is the national platform for Miss America Organization. And showing what good outcomes can come out of the Bakken because it has this overtone of negativity and they were incredibly supportive through donations and good luck wishes. Anything you can think of, they are behind me 100 percent of the way. It was really nice."
And when asked about her reaction if she won Miss America? "I know for sure I'd cry. I cried at the state pageant."
Montana has never been the state to win the hearts of judges in the past, but Pope has the gumption to place.
"I would love to show America the kind of work ethic and humble citizens Montana produces... There are a ton of strong young women in Montana and I'm so glad to represent it."
Now she's on a whirlwind tour across the state and nation. In just a few months, Pope and her family will step foot in America's playground, representing all one million of us.
The Miss America competition is set for Sept. 10 - 15.