Although she's not technically from West Michigan, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler did spend some time in the Grand Rapids community visiting school children and spreading her message of hope for a bright future.
Laura was crowned this January and will spend a year traveling around the country proclaiming her message of educational importance like she shared with students at the Grand Rapids Montessori March 6.
Laura stayed at City Flats Hotel in Grand Rapids while she was here, and got to sample some of the local cuisine at Cherry Deli and Leo's. The time was busy, as she was in town for a magazine photo shoot as well as her appearance at the school, but she called it relaxing, especially compared to early mornings and lack of sleep during the week previous to her arrival in GR.
As a Kenosha, Wisconsin native, Laura is no stranger to "the lake," and said some of her favorite memories growing up were spent on the shores of Lake Michigan. Laura just turned 24 years old, but she is making an impact, especially for children of incarcerated parents. One branch of the Miss America Organization requires each contestant to choose a platform, or charitable/service-related topic that they will promote during their year of service. Laura chose something that was meaningful for her, her family, and thousands of children across the country.
“If I was going to spend the entire year talking about something, I was going to make sure it was something I was very passionate about, and wanted to wake up every morning and want to talk about it day in and day out,” says Laura. “My platform, which is Circles of Support-Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents, stems from my father spending time in prison when I was a teenager.”
Laura tells students that no matter what happened in the past, they can dream big and achieve big. She encourages students to set goals for their education and future careers and work toward them.
“It was such a trying time in my life, but I have really seen it come full circle in way that I am able to help others,” Laura says. “Not only does that circumstance not have to define their lives, but it also does not have to put limitation to their success.”
Laura will also promote the MAO national platform–Children’s Miracle Network.
Laura attended Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and after her year of service with the MAO, she plans to go to law school.
Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo: Deb Knoske