GIRLS INC. 'CHASE YOUR DREAMS' Miss Virginia Teen USA launches platform at Bristol Girls Inc.

February 23, 2016


Miss Virginia Teen USA launches platform at Bristol Girls Inc.

BRISTOL, Va. — Nurses, artists, veterinarians, singers, doctors, an aerospace engineer — all dream careers to which young girls in the Mountain Empire aspire.

Gracyn Blackmore, this year’s Miss Virginia Teen USA, visited Girls Inc. in Bristol Tuesday to launch the platform she created called UNLOCK.

"It’s where I give the girls a sense of confidence," she said. "I want them to know that it’s OK to chase your dreams and that’s what life is all about — is going after what you want for most and not to give up."

Blackmore added that she hoped her visit Tuesday inspired the girls and instilled goal-setting and confidence. She plans to visit other Girls Inc. facilities and some schools while she holds the title.

UNLOCK is not an acronym, it’s capitalized to emphasize that all children can unlock their potential and learn to be confident when reaching their goals, Blackmore said.

"When you’re speaking in a sentence you use unlock because you want to unlock your dreams, you want to unlock your potential so that’s something that is just a really powerful word to me," she said.

Blackmore, who’s 16, chose to raise money for Girls Inc. because she believes she can relate to the age group.

"I have had the time of my life," she said. "It has been so much fun. I go to John S. Battle High School — I’m from the area ... so it’s really nice to be able to represent this area because I know a lot of pageant girls that go to the state pageant aren’t from here."

She entered her first pageant in April 2015.

"This was a dream of mine," Blackmore said. "This was something that I thought I couldn’t do, but when I put hard work and effort into it, I was like, ‘Man, I can do this.’ And I did it, so I want them to know that they can do the same thing."

She said she decided to participate in pageants because she knows a lot of people who are involved.

"They told me how much of an impact it had on them, how much it raised their confidence, how much it improved their speaking skills," she said. "They made so many friends so I just wanted to be a part of it."

A group of nearly 30 girls gathered around tables to hear Blackmore speak then she had them make dream boards — pictures of their dreams, like one of Blackmore’s — learning to dance, on a piece of paper. The dream boards, she said, are to be displayed where it can be seen every day as a reminder of and encouragement toward achieving their dreams.

Blackmore also gave the girls necklaces with a key on them and a note saying that the key is to remind them that they have the power to unlock their dreams. The note is meant to encourage them to share their message with others when they ask what the key is for then pass it along to the person to continue encouraging achievement.

Taliyh Burks, 12, said she wants to be a nurse. Her immediate goals are to pass all of her SOL tests.

Ella Duff, 7, said she wants to be an artist and plans to get into a good college.

"It’s amazing that her platform kind of goes along with our every-day thing that we do with kids," said Mary Shrader, a Girls Inc. board of trustees member. "We want them to be successful and unlock their dreams."