An Oklahoma pageant queen spent some quality time last week with a group of Edmond elementary school students.

The topic, however, wasn’t beauty secrets — it was about how to make good choices.

Jennifer Berry, Miss Oklahoma 2005, visited Orvis Risner Elementary and shared “The Choice Is Yours” in the school’s packed gymnasium.

Since she was crowned Miss Oklahoma in June, Berry has spoken to hundreds of students at various age levels across the state.

Berry said she averages three to four assemblies a day.

Orvis Risner Principal Joe Pierce said Berry’s program fits nicely with the school’s efforts to teach students about making good choices. Pierce said one of the school’s rules is to do the right thing.

“We try to teach them to make healthy choices as well as good choices,” Pierce said.

When she was 15, a friend of Berry’s was killed in an alcohol-related car accident, she told the students. Berry immediately was motivated to save others from losing their lives to a senseless decision.

“I never realized how much alcohol and drugs can impact someone’s life until I lost a personal friend,” she said. “After that happened, I realized the impact it can have on life in general.”

Berry, now 22, said she has learned just how much decisions she made when she was younger affect her life today. Her age and experiences help her reach her high school audiences.

Berry, an elementary education senior at the University of Oklahoma, said she enjoys interacting with elementary students most of all.

Second-graders Adam Thomas, Brittany Bailey and Jase George helped Berry as she discussed her three-step process for good decision making. They held up stoplight-themed signs.

Thomas held a red sign which said, “Stop, because you need to think about it.”

Bailey held a yellow sign which taught the students to proceed slowly and explore. “When you’re on your own you have to become explorers,” Berry said.

George held a green sign which said, “‘Go’ ahead and make a great decision.”

Berry gave the students an hypothetical scenario. In the scenario, one student tried to talk into student into hiding out past recess so they could have some fun out on the playground.

Then students listed potential negative consequences to the situation.

“You don’t get to do any fun stuff,” one said.

“You wouldn’t get to go to programs,” another said.

“You would miss read aloud with your favorite reader,” one said.

“You could be sent to the principal’s office,” said another.

“You could be expelled,” someone said.

“You could be in trouble at home,” one said.

Then they listed potential positive consequences, quickly running out of steam.

“You would have fun for a little while,” one said.

“You would get to play with friends,” another said.

Berry told the students the exercise indicated that there were more negative than positive consequences to poor decision-making.

When asked if they would purposefully stay late after recess, the vast majority of the students raised their hands to say they would not do so.

Then Berry taught the students about goal-setting.

When she was in elementary school, she always watched Miss America and admired the contestants. She began taking ballet lessons and she had to work hard to earn her first professional ballet shoes.

“I’m 22 years old now and I’m still working hard every single day to be a dancer,” Berry said.

In high school, she set a goal to one day become Miss Oklahoma and win college scholarship money.

She continued to work hard at dancing.

The first Miss Oklahoma pageant came and went; she didn’t win.

“I knew that I wanted to be Miss Oklahoma and that just meant I had to work even harder,” Berry said. “And I did. I worked harder to try and improve in every area.”

The second Miss Oklahoma pageant came and went; she didn’t win.

She asked the students if they thought she won.

“Yes!” they said resoundingly.

The third pageant came and went. Despite a lifetime of making good choices, of saying “No” to drugs, she didn’t win, the students equally surprised by the unexpected answer.

“That was hard,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes when we don’t reach our goals right away. I had to build a lot of courage up in myself to get back up again. I knew I wanted to be Miss Oklahoma. I knew I was going to have to try again.”

There were times when she thought she would never be Miss Oklahoma. But she couldn’t give up.

Then the fourth pageant came and went; she still didn’t win.

In June, her fifth time to compete in the Miss Oklahoma pageant, she won, achieving her goal. It took five years to reach one goal, she said. In January, Berry will compete in the Miss America pageant.

“There are gonna be things that you want to do when you’re older that you may have to try more than once,” Berry said. “I promise you that if you don’t give up, you can be anything you want to be.”

At the end of the program, Berry had the students pledge to do their best to make great choices and to “always say ‘No’ to drugs.”


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