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Local girl to represent Minnesota at national pageant

At just 6 years old, one Hastings girl is about to step onto a national stage.

Sally Makena, a first-grader at Pine Harbor Christian Academy, will be competing in the National American Miss Pageant in November. She earned a spot on the stage in June, when she earned the fourth runner up spot in the talent competition at the state pageant.

Ann Makena-Daggett, Sally’s mother, said she and her husband, Steve Daggett, have known for a few years that Sally was special. One of their first hints came from a nurse involved with Sally’s brother’s care. The nurse had observed Sally’s high level of development and gave Ann a bit of advice: Sally was a girl who needed to be busy.

“We kind of knew she was unique,” Ann said.

Sally had been showing strong reading and fluency skills early on.

“Her speech would be more fluent than kids who were three years older than her,” Ann said.

Then, she started reading before she was 4 years old, impressing others enough that a school district employee recommended Ann explore gifted and talented programs for Sally. When she tested for preschool, she gave answers the test administrators noted were not typical of a child her age.

Ann said she started looking online for activities Sally could get involved in. Eventually, she found the National American Miss Pageant. It stood out, she said, because it’s less about appearance and more about building up children from the inside.

“It trains young kids for leadership,” she said.

“The National American Miss Pageants are dedicated to celebrating America’s greatness and encouraging its future leaders,” reads a press release provided to Sally’s family.

Ann said that the pageant offers contests for talent, photogenics, casual wear modeling and spokes model. All the kids involved gave a self introduction, including their name, where they live, what their passion in life is, how they contribute to the community and their hobbies and other activities, she explained.

Sally entered the competition at the state level earlier this year as a 5-year-old. Ann said she worked with her daughter to prepare, teaching her how to recite a poem for the talent portion of the contest.

Ann said they weren’t totally prepared, however, for the reality of the pageant. Sally took the stage on her birthday in June, surrounded by hundreds of people.

Although Sally didn’t place in the pageant’s main contest, she earned fourth runner-up in the talent show. Ann said she was impressed by her daughter’s courage; she’s naturally very shy, Ann said, and even cried at the sheer number of people she would have to perform in front of. But when it came time to get on stage, she managed to get her nerves under control.

“On stage she was very composed,” Ann said.

Winning a spot at nationals was both surprising and humbling, Ann said. Several of the other contestants had professional trainers working with them.

Ann said that one of her goals throughout this experience is to hold onto that sense of humility.

“The goal is to keep her humble and also use up her energy the best way possible,” she said.

Ann credited Pine Harbor Christian Academy for helping Sally in her early school years and thanked them for providing a great environment for Sally the last three years and especially for helping her grow her faith, which Ann said is the most important part of who Sally is.

Inspiration

While Sally’s participation in the pageant is primarily to help her grow and mature, Ann said that she hopes also to inspire other parents.

“There are a lot of talented kids that are doing nothing with their talent,” Ann said.

And sometimes, all it takes from a parent is investing some extra energy into helping their children put their talents to work.

For Ann, the pageant is one way she can help her daughter use her skills instead of letting them fall to the wayside.

“I don’t want her to waste her talent,” Ann said.

Nationals

Now, Sally and her family are working on preparing for the All-American National Pageant in November. That will be held in Anaheim, California.

Sally plans to recite her poem again, and has also been working on reciting scriptures and practicing actions along with those verses. Ann said Sally wants to sing and also wants to enter the casual dress optional contest, where she wants to present the Maasai outfit and culture. The Maasai people are from eastern Africa, near where Ann herself grew up.

Ann said that their goal going into nationals is to come home with a win, especially now that they know better what to expect at the competition and what the judges are looking for.

“We are gearing to go there and win,” she said.

The family is also hoping to gain some sponsorships to help them pay for the trip. The pageant office only pays for travel for the top winners, so Sally’s trip has to be funded another way. They’ll be in California for about a week, and Ann said she expects it to cost about $4,000, including a hotel stay, tickets and contest expenses.

For the state competition, Hastings Chrysler sponsored Sally, which was a huge help. She’s hoping Sally can earn another local sponsorship for Nationals.

Anyone who wants to donate to their cause can do so online at www.gofundme.com/2quj8fw.