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Pageantry, competition and advocacy  

Local teen uses platform to boost her potential and raise awareness for causes 

In typical teen fashion, Lee's Summit's Holly McDowell can often be found scuba diving, mowing lawns, playing sports or connecting with other students from her church. When she’s not doing these activities, she has another unique role—fulfilling her duties as Miss Missouri Teen USA. 

McDowell, 16, won her current title at a competition in Columbia, Mo. in December when she was just 15 years old. It was only the second pageant she had ever entered, and the experience has made a profound impact on her. 

“Something inside of me told myself that I better make the most of this night and just go out and do my best,” McDowell says. “I blocked everyone else out and focused on what I needed to do to win.”

Her focus and determination paid off, and she will now compete for Miss Teen USA this summer.

McDowell’s entry into pageantry came when she attended an open call for the National American Miss pageant last spring and was asked to compete in their Missouri event last August. She placed in the top 10 competitors overall and received first runner up for top model and second runner up for runway. 

Then last fall, someone mentioned she should consider the Miss Missouri Teen USA pageant. She did, and she gave it her all when competing as Miss Greater Lee’s Summit against 45 other girls from around the state in various categories such as interview, active wear and evening gown. 

“Hearing my name and title called as the winner—I can't even put into words how that moment felt,” McDowell says. “I couldn't believe this had just happened to me!”

In addition to making multiple appearances throughout the year at places such as Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Special Olympics, McDowell is working with Restoration House and the Coalition on Human Trafficking to use her title and platform to raise awareness about human trafficking.

“It was close to my heart because of how young the girls are,” McDowell says. “I want to inform young girls about the dangers of human trafficking and how they can easily be lured into it without even knowing what they're getting in to.” 

After losing her grandparents recently, she is also passionate about advocating for Alzheimer’s and women’s heart disease. Suicide prevention and mental health is another cause close to her heart as she lost an aunt and uncle to suicide that she never had the opportunity to meet. 

McDowell has always been homeschooled, and last summer she traveled with students from her church, Abundant Life, to Jamaica, where they helped build a home for a single mother and served the community there. She’s also active in a small group through the student ministry at her church.

When it comes to her plans for the future, McDowell is looking forward to competing this summer. Additionally, she would like to pursue a hospitality management degree in college and become a wedding planner so she can use her skills in organization and management to make the special day of others truly memorable. 

She has other fun ambitions including becoming a divemaster in scuba diving when she turns 18. She fell in love with scuba diving after a family trip to Hawaii and is already advanced certified. She wants to use this adventurous hobby to advocate for clean oceans.

Overall, her faith motivates her in her pursuits as she says she seeks to put God first and bring Him glory.

“When I pray, it just gives me peace, and I don’t know what I would do without that,” McDowell says.