KENNEWICK -- Kailee Dunn, the newly crowned Miss Tri-Cities for 2011, says being the 2009-10 student body president at Kamiakin High School and having counselor mentors who showed her the value of serving others had a big role in bringing her the title in the 51st scholarship pageant.
Dunn, 19, will begin her second year at Columbia Basin College in the fall and said her high school experiences prepared her for the pageant before she knew she would be a contestant.
Being involved in Kamiakin volleyball, Key Club, the school marketing club and in the Kamiakin Associated Student Body (government) showed her how choosing to serve through leadership affected others.
"As ASB president I learned how to lead when I needed to, and how to let others take charge in what they are good at," Dunn said.
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It is a lesson she wants to share as Miss Tri-Cities 2011 during the next year while making dozens of public appearances at community events.
"I want to be able to reach out to young adults and inspire them to reach for their dreams. I believe anyone can be a positive leader," Dunn said.
Dunn's decision to become a contestant was inspired by the encouragement of some friends and her parents, Jim and Dianne Dunn, who she said, "Told me to embrace every second of it."
The final weeks of preparation for the pageant were a crash course for the nine contestants, who not only had to perfect their individual routines, but also had to cooperate as a team on group performance numbers.
The rehearsals and the practices alone were personally worth it, Dunn said.
That opening group dance number Saturday made Dunn nervous, but her confidence grew during the evening.
"It got easier to take a breath," she said.
"I've grown and learned so much because of this. Win or lose, I knew it would be a great overall experience. Even if you lose, there's the lifetime friendships," Dunn said.
As a contestant, Dunn came to the pageant stage with extra experience that would work to her benefit.
Being involved with DECA, an association of marketing students at Kamiakin, prepared her for being on stage and the inevitable moment of having to face judges for interviews.
Dunn placed first at a DECA state competition for community service project while attending Kamiakin, and was a national contestant at the International Career Development conference.
She had a leadership role in a project to raise $20,000 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Campaign, and was a volunteer for Second Harvest.
She also came with some acting experience, having worked as an extra for the TV show Leverage, and in the movie Gone. Dunn also was a finalist last fall in auditioning in California to be a Disney princess, specifically as Snow White.
That could yet lead to a call from the Disney people, she said.
Currently, Dunn works in sales at Sporthaus and is an escort to the Dust Devils' mascot.
In her resume, Dunn said her family, which includes an older brother, Trevor, encouraged her to "pursue my own character and dreams ... and finish whatever I start with all of my heart."
The 2011 Miss Tri-Cities' platform is servant leadership, which Dunn defines as "How can I make someone's day better?"
Her advice to other young people who have dreams: "If you have a passion to do anything, just go out and try."
Following the coming year of reign in the Tri-Cities, Dunn's education goal includes earning a bachelor of arts in business tourism from Arizona State University.
But that depends on how her other dream ends: participating as Miss Tri-Cities in the Miss Washington pageant next summer.