By Michelle Bauman
Katie Stam, Miss America 2009, came home to Seymour, Ind., on March 4 — with a message of unity and mission for Lutheran schools.
Her first stop was to bring greetings to the more than 1,400 grade- and high-school students gathered at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour for their annual National Lutheran Schools Week chapel service and celebration.
“Wow! Wow! This is amazing,” Stam said as she stood on stage after entering to a standing ovation and the Miss America theme song. “Thank you, guys, for the incredible welcome this morning.”
She was crowned Miss America Jan. 24 at the national pageant finals in Las Vegas.
An LCMS Lutheran all her life, Stam attended preschool at Zion Lutheran Church, Seymour; elementary school at St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School in rural Seymour; and was baptized and confirmed at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Dudleytown, Ind. She currently is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seymour.
As she introduced Stam to the assembly, Sharon Rohr, her grade school principal, pointed out the many connections Katie and her family have to the Lutheran community, adding that the most important is as brothers and sisters in Christ.
After thanking Rohr, Katie responded, “It’s exactly right, not only do we have the connections with the schools, but we have the connection from being children of God together, and that’s very, very important.”
Her mission-focused message to the students continued with a description of her role as the reigning Miss America. “Being Miss America, it’s the best job in the world … . It’s a job I take very seriously.”
She said that being Miss America means, most importantly, being a good role model for today’s youth. “That’s what my job is — it’s to make a positive influence on you guys,” she told the students.
She also encouraged them to find role models and model their lives after the people they admire. “That’s what I did growing up,” she said as she spoke of her own role models: her parents and siblings. “I tried to find those values and those qualities that I wanted to keep in my life and show them every single day.”
One of those qualities is faith.
Tracy Stam, Katie’s mother (and a teacher at Immanuel, Seymour), says church has played a large role in Katie’s life. She points out that her daughter not only attended church and Sunday school every Sunday, but she also learned to trust that God would provide for her.
“We had four children under the age of five,” Tracy Stam said. “We had to trust that God would take care of us, as I stayed home with them for 10 years and then worked part-time for 10 more years so I could be involved in their activities.”
Faith remains important in Katie’s life today, according to her mother.
“I would write Bible verses on the lunch bags that I brought after school,” she explained, referring to the snacks she’d provide her children before moving them on to other activities. “Katie says she still has some of those bags.”
In addition to finding a role model, Katie Stam also encouraged the students at the Schools Week assembly to be messengers for Christ.
“Try to show Christ’s love to others every single day,” she advised. “That’s the most important thing you can do.”
According to her mother, Katie participated in a variety of service projects while growing up, sharing the love of Christ through her local 4-H chapter, and later leading a fundraiser for the United Way in high school.
She believes that Katie’s education in Lutheran schools influenced her greatly. “It built her character. It helped make her who she is today,” she said.
As the reigning Miss America, Katie is official goodwill ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network, a network of about 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. She visits children in these hospitals and shares their stories with others. Through fundraising events, Katie says she hopes to make an impact on the lives of many of those children.
Katie described her recent visit to a children’s hospital in Florida. “Because of the money that we raise through the Children’s Miracle Network, that hospital will be able to build a brand new wing … with a special ventilation system that actually takes the air out of the building instead of circulating it through the building.”
As germs are prevented from circulating through the building, the children will be able to come out of their rooms and interact with each other without the fear of becoming ill, she explained. It will enable them to have a more normal childhood.
Not only is the new Miss America an enthusiastic ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network, but she’s also excited about being an ambassador for Christ.
“He’s given me this opportunity to be a messenger for Him,” said Katie. “Every day I have to step outside myself and look at my life and say, ‘What a blessing!’ and that’s really truly what it is. It’s absolutely a blessing from God.”
Katie reminded the students that they, too, have been called into the mission field as ambassadors for Christ and encouraged them to take their callings seriously, with honor and pride in sharing Christ.
“She did a wonderful job of reminding our students of their mission,” said Dan Sievert, principal of Trinity Lutheran High School. “We are all called to share Christ with others.”
At the end of Katie’s speech, a student from each of the six schools represented in the gymnasium was given the opportunity to ask her a question.
Allison, a seventh-grade student from Immanuel, asked if being Miss America had changed Katie.
“Becoming Miss America has changed me in every way,” Katie answered, “and none of [the changes] are negative.”
Speaking of her work before the national competition and the weeks following her crowning, Katie said, “I knew that I was going to change. I knew that I was going to grow.”
“I never thought that I would grow spiritually. But that is the greatest growth I have made since becoming Miss America,” Katie said.
She said she believes God has placed her in this position “for a reason.”
As the only competitor this year to perform a Christian musical select
By Michelle Bauman