2018 Miss Kansas winner Hannah Klaassen used tap-dancing to calm her nerves, and in her pursuit of a dream to become a role model for others.
“Absolutely shocked and overwhelmed, and excited and so grateful,” the Arkansas City native said of being crowned Miss Kansas. “I’ve always wanted to be the girl others look up to as Miss Kansas. This is a dream come true.“
With a great smile and calm demeanor, Klaassen tap-danced her way into the hearts of the audience in preliminary and finals competitions, and it was no accident that she seemed to have no trouble with nerves.
“I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, and I have always loved tap-dancing,” Klaassen said. “Whenever I am nervous I start tapping my toes so I knew it was a perfect talent for me to use at Miss Kansas. Tap dancing really helps with nerve control.“
Klaassen chose to tap dance to a song from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“I saw that show twice and just loved it,” she said. “This song pumps me up every time, so it was a great choice.“
Music has always been important in Klaassen’s life, something she credits after God, family and friends for her success. She participated in drama and theater productions at Ark Valley High School, including leading roles in “Annie” and “All Shook Up.“
A sophomore Presidential Scholar at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, she also participated in music at the college level as a freshman member of the concert choir and part of a small a cappella group called TFX.
PROMOTING HER PLATFORM
The daughter of Dr. Paul and Lisa Klaassen, Hannah entered the pageant with a platform of supporting mental health.
“I have had two very close friends and a grandmother who have struggled with different mental illnesses over the past few years, and I’ve been able to see how this affects their daily (lives) in many different ways,” she said.
“I want to support those who struggle with a mental illness and encourage them to get the help they need, while also helping them know that they are so much more than an illness — they are worthy of love and acceptance and respect, just like every other human being, and their mental health should not diminish their quality of life.”
Klaassen said her leadership classes at Tabor College helped prepare her for the interview portion of the Miss Kansas pageant and fellow students and teachers asked her questions and listened to her speeches.
One of those speeches, given on her pageant platform subject “The Mind Matters: lessening the stigma of mental illness,” helped her see how much the information she has researched is needed in today’s college climate, as well as at other levels of education for youth and adults.
“I just want to let people know that help is there for those who need it,” she said. “I had two friends in high school who suffered from severe anxiety and depression and I have watched my granny deal with bi-polar mental illness. After one speech at college, I had a young man come up afterwards and ask me where he could get help. We need to do better at connecting resources with the young people who need them, and make it an acceptable thing to ask for that help.“
Klaassen is studying psychology with a goal to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate so that she might pursue a career in teaching at the college level.
“With my interest in dance and movement therapy, it all combines together with my platform. Music and dance can help those battling mental illnesses and we need education at a young level about what mental illness is and how we can help each other.“
Klaassen was asked how education could be improved. Her answer to that was simple.
“We need to pay teachers more,” she said. “We need more funding for mental illness education and we need quality teachers.“
Klaassen said tragedies like school shootings could be prevented by better mental health care.
“Nobody would shoot others if they were mentally sound,” she said.
KLAASSEN FAMILY SUPPORT
Klaassen credited her family with providing her with support during this entire process.
“They have been so supportive over the past year, and even though Heidi is getting married in July, she has been so wonderful in loving and supporting me through Miss Kansas while also planning her wedding.
“My siblings really helped me prepare for both my local and the state pageant through encouraging me to be healthy, and helping me relax by playing games and watching movies with me. I could not have gotten where I am without Mom and Dad this year.”
At home with her family, Klaassen is a keen Mario Cart video game competitor with her younger brother, Pierce, and her older sister, Heidi. She plays tennis and took up running recently, hitting the treadmill for two or so miles per day while watching Netflix.
Klaassen, who started attending Miss Kansas pageants when she was 13, said she looks forward to traveling and working with school children during her reign as Miss Kansas.
It has been a long road to the Miss Kansas title for Klaassen.
“I got involved in the Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen organization when I was 16, and after deciding I wanted to do more to change/serve my community and the world, the Miss Kansas organization was my first choice to give me the platform to do so,” she said.
From there, Klaassen was crowned Miss South Central Kansas earlier this year. It was that competition that led her to last week’s festivities.
“I’m so passionate about mental health and wellness, and through Miss Kansas, I can promote this platform, as well the Miss America platform of Children’s Miracle Network hospitals,” she said.
“I knew I could also earn amazing scholarships and have the opportunity to be a positive role model for children everywhere. These things all really drew me to the organization.”
The Miss Kansas pageant is a state preliminary to the Miss America Contest.
MISS KANSAS DUTIES
Although it is a great honor, being named Miss Kansas is just the first step in Klaassen’s next journey toward competing at the national level.
“Earning the title of Miss Kansas means I now have a full-time job,” she said.
“My life was completely changed in the moment I was crowned, and that was both humbling and thrilling. My first big event will be competing in Miss America in September. After that, I begin to make appearances daily.”
Those appearances will take place at schools, meetings, clubs, hospitals, parades and many more venues.
Last year, Miss Kansas 2017 made nearly 600 such appearances.
- pratttribune.com, acdailybytes.com and other wire services