By Julie Wiessner
Miss Navajo County Kylie Koerperich is actively pursuing her Opportunities for Autism platform to raise awareness for the disorder. In general, autism is a disorder making it difficult to engage in social interaction whether by speaking or by non-verbal communication. This limits all of their life experiences from one degree to another.
So far, Kylie, a 2013 graduate of Holbrook High School, has held a talent show that included autistic performers, and a movie night for autistic and special needs individuals, and she continues to visit local schools to meet with autistic students and those with disabilities to get to know them better and to support them.
She also speaks in regular classrooms encouraging students to make friends with and be kind to autistic children and those with special needs.
Choosing autism as her platform came from something she experienced before seeking the Miss Navajo County title.
“I have a really good friend whose daughter has autism as well as other disabilities,” said Kylie. “I saw the daily struggle she goes through in dealing with her daughter’s disorder and it just touched my heart and made me want to do something to help.”
It has touched her heart so deeply that it became part of the reason she is majoring in speech pathology at Northern Arizona University in order to more fully serve those with autism or any with special needs, no matter how great or small.
That major will help Kylie better interact with those with autism, as well as give her the ability to help many others with special needs.
What made her decide to run for Miss Navajo County?
“It’s not about the crown, it’s about the platform and the great opportunity made available to me by it,” said Kylie. “It gave me a chance to help my community and get to know the people better.”
Reflecting on her experiences thus far, she noted, “Nervousness has been my biggest challenge as well as managing my time as a freshman at NAU and as Miss Navajo County.”
Kylie spends Monday through Thursday at NAU and comes back to Holbrook on the weekends to address her Miss Navajo County schedule of events.
“My favorite word is ‘believe.’ It is so important for anyone to believe in the power to be able to make a difference. I like to spread that message to all the kids with special needs or not. Believing in faith, that is what makes it all work,” said Kylie.
The next Opportunities for Autism event is the movie The Polar Express showing at 12 noon on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Roxy Theater in Holbrook. Those who are autistic or have special needs are admitted free, with a $5 admission fee for each family member.
Kylie is also seeking autistic/special needs children to ride with her in our Christmas parades, just one of the many opportunities she hopes to provide for them.
She is beginning a calendar to feature herself and an autistic/special needs child for each month, and is still looking for children who might be interested in participating in that project.
At the three-hour Zumbathon she held last weekend in Show Low, Kylie raised $332, well over the $250 requirement for participation in the Miss Arizona Pageant. The money raised goes to the Children’s Miracle Network, the official charity of the Miss America Pageant.
Kylie is planning another variety show in the near future. “Part of the autistic person’s disability is a difficulty in expressing themselves. Through planning several events to participate in, such as a variety show, parades, movies, Zumbathons and other activities, autistic children are given the ability to experience expressing themselves in a caring environment. My hope is that these events will help these children,” said Kylie.
Other activities she plans to participate in are the Christmas parades scheduled Nov. 23 in Winslow, on Dec. 7 in Show Low and on Dec. 14 in Holbrook. She will also be participating in the Holbrook Parade of Lights Festival on Dec. 14, where she will help hand out gifts with Santa from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and perform at 2 p.m.
For more information, contact Rachele Baldwin, director of the Miss Navajo County Scholarship Pageant, at (303) 870-3304.
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By Julie Wiessner