Perseverance has paid off for Tayler Plunkett, 17, of Kennewick.
The Southridge High School junior was crowned Miss Washington's Outstanding Teen 2014 in Burien on Sunday on her second try competing for the statewide title.
Tayler and two other Southridge High School students — Reagan Rebstock, 15, and Payten Hart, 17 — were among the 28 teens competing for the tiara.
As Miss Sun Valley's Outstanding Teen 2014, Tayler represents Yakima County. She was second runner-up last year at the statewide pageant when she was Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen.
Rebstock, this year’s Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen, was fourth runner-up for the statewide title. She received a $500 scholarship.
Hart, Miss Benton County’s Outstanding Teen, also competed in the statewide pageant.
Tayler was able to be more relaxed and have more fun with it this year, she said, though it was still nerve-wracking. She sings opera for her talent, and she chose to perform Art is Calling for Me.
“I felt a lot more prepared,” she said.
Her family was there to see her win, including parents Tammy and Roy Plunkett. Her whole family has been supportive, she said.
Winning the state title will help as Tayler works on her platform, “Friends for Life: Unifying Teens With and Without Disabilities” beyond the Tri-Cities and into Yakima County, she said.
Tayler joined Buddy Club when she came to Southridge as a freshman, she said. Since she has seen the effect the club has had at her school, she wants to help schools in Yakima County start clubs of their own.
She’s already been working on that goal, making presentations at some of the schools and holding a Buddy Club lunch at Sunnyside High School.
She also serves on the Project Unify state committee through Special Olympics, working to spread unified school sports and activities throughout the state. They want to see a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities, she said.
Tayler’s goal is to become a speech therapist, something she decided on after getting a chance to shadow a speech therapist as part of her culminating project, she said.
“I love the idea of helping a child to communicate,” she said.
Along with the crown and title, Tayler won a $5,000 scholarship and prizes worth more than $7,000.
Tayler is already preparing to compete for Miss America Outstanding Teen in two months in Orlando, Fla. She had to submit paperwork within 24 hours of being crowned.
--Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org