The Miss Teenage Canada competition aims to recognize young women in the community who are striving for change – this year, Red Deer’s own Sarah Wojcik was awarded the title.
Wojcik, 17, decided to enter the competition to promote her views on overcoming mental health issues and other causes close to her heart.
“Being Miss Teenage Canada gives me the opportunity to encourage youth Canada-wide. I want to share the idea that no matter what kind of background you come from – dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, a one-parent home or even things like having low self confidence – your past and your struggles do not completely define you. It won’t define your future,” Wojcik said.
“I’ve been through some struggles in my life, but I’m not letting those define me, or determine where my future is going. I experienced bullying when I was younger, and it’s known that a lot of mental health issues can be caused by bullying. I just want to use my past struggles to be an advocate for teens across Canada and show them they don’t have to fight in silence – the help is out there.”
Wojcik said that she has had friends compete in Miss Teen pageants before and that she admired their titles for the advocacy platform.
She is also an avid volunteer and spends time with a number of organizations from her school programs to the Women’s Outreach Centre and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
“There is lots of charity work involved, and hopefully I’ll be able to make a tree this year for Festival of Trees to represent Miss Teenage Canada. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work, and have been doing it since a young age,” she said.
“I started with Salvation Army and it evolved from there. Having my old provincial title, I was able to work with some of my favorite charities such as World Vision. I volunteer with the Women’s Outreach Centre, and I’m very involved in my school. I’m on student council and the grad service project.
“I also volunteer a lot with Cystic Fibrosis Canada, because a friend of mine suffers from cystic fibrosis and it’s something that is very close to my heart.”
The contests do have portions that judge aesthetics and demeanor, but Wojcik said that the pageants are really more about what girls are doing for their communities. She said that they cherish girls who are unique and that the contest focuses on fundraising, work ethic and personality over appearances.
“There is no height or weight restriction for the contests. It’s not limited to all about how you look – it’s about your heart and who you are in your personality. They really cherish girls who go above and beyond in their communities,” Wojcik said.
“They look for girls who are smart, girls who are active, girls who win awards for public services. Any talents you have are honoured and accepted. They want girls who are real – they aren’t just looking for drop-dead gorgeous models. They’re looking for real, down to earth girls.”
Each year, competitors are judged on their fundraising abilities for a chosen charity. This year the recipient of the funds raised through the Miss Teen Canada contestants was given to Free the Children.
“Each girl was required to raise a minimum of $400, but if you raised over $1,000 it gave you extra points in preliminary scoring. The highest fundraiser – a girl from Lethbridge – was automatically entered into the top 20,” explained Wojcik.
“One of the things that I won with my title is the opportunity to go to Ecuador with Free the Children. Because of the amount of money we raised as a group of pageant girls, we were able to build eight new schools in the community. I’ll be going to Ecuador to help build the schools and I’m so excited for that. It’s something that’s been on my bucket list – travel the world and do mission work.”
Wojcik hopes that she is able to use her title as Miss Teenage Canada to bring awareness to mental health struggles in youths, as well as to help reduce stigma around teen pregnancies.
“The stigma is that these girls have no future or that they are careless or promiscuous. I’d like to show these girls and the community that their pasts won’t completely define their future,” she said.
Wojcik will be graduating this year from high school and will be moving into a pre-medicine program at the University of Alberta to pursue her dream of becoming an OB/GYN doctor to improve women’s health.