Milwaukie's Shayla Montgomery represented Oregon well, bringing back the first runner-up award from the 2020 Miss Teen USA pageant on Nov. 7.
"This honor to me is amazing, because I put Oregon back on the map," Montgomery said. "The week of Miss Teen USA was magical even though we are experiencing a global pandemic."
Montgomery praised the pageant organization for keeping contestants safe and healthy while allowing them to meet new people, make memories and grow into themselves.
Montgomery, who was named Miss Oregon Teen USA 2020 in January, recently went to Salem as part of a panel representing the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Currently, counselors in schools and nurses don't have training in suicide prevention, but the Oregon Legislature is considering passing a bill to make that training mandatory.
Next year, the foundation will push for a bill to include beds specifically for teens in psych wards. Currently, teens who attempt to kill themselves are taken to the emergency room and then sent home, where they sometimes go on to take their own lives, Montgomery said.
Montgomery graduated in June with a high school diploma from Clackamas Middle College and an associate's degree from Clackamas Community College.
Mongomery is applying to nursing school and plans to begin studying in a nursing program in the summer of 2021.
"Eventually, I plan to continue my education and become a doctor of nursing practice in dermatology," she said. "I struggled with skin conditions as a child, and I want to be a beacon of hope for those who have low self-esteem because of their skin. As a natural go-getter, I also plan to become a CEO of a world-renowned skincare line that focuses on eczema and those with chronic dry skin. My products will be sold in affordable stores like Target and Walmart to ensure that, no matter your socioeconomic background, you are able to feel confident in your own skin."
Montgomery is no stranger to national attention. In 2015, when she was only 13 years old, she was crowned National American Miss in the preteen division in Anaheim, California. She also won the National Spokesmodel competition and was third runner-up in the nation for volunteer service.
In 2019, Montgomery was named a state honoree in the Spirit of Prudential Awards, primarily for creating #Standup, an organization devoted to ending bullying. Using social media, Montgomery invited people affected by bullying to post photos of themselves online holding a #Standup sign.
She also visited schools and community groups, speaking to young people and adults to brainstorm ways to solve the problem of bullying.
The issue is personal to her, Montgomery said, as she was bullied in sixth grade. She entered the National American Miss Pageant in 2015 as a way to prove to herself she had value.
Competing in pageants has taught her how to speak in public without fear, carry herself with confidence and to be the best version of herself, Montgomery said.
"The entire week at Miss Teen USA was more than I could've ever imagined," she said. "However, the best part of my experience was getting to know a few state titleholders very well. I am the only girl in my family, so to have a whole week where I am surrounded by like-minded teens was a blast."
For Montgomery, the most challenging part of competing in the pageant was going to bed every night around 11 p.m. and having to wake up at 4 a.m. to get ready for the next day.
"Let's just say I am going to enjoy sleeping in a little more once I am back home in Oregon," she said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.