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Sights on the crown: Kailey Salzillo has taken a unique path to Miss Oklahoma Teen competition

Yukon senior graduated from United States Army Basic Training in August

Most 17-year-old high school seniors are worried about getting their grades up, so they can have a chance to attend college but not Yukon High School senior Kailey Salzillo.

Kailey is Miss Teen Yukon and she will compete in the Miss Oklahoma Teen USA Pageant December 16 through December 18 to try and earn the right to be the 2017 Miss Oklahoma Teen. The pageant will take place at the Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee.

The YHS senior was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia but her family moved to Yukon in 2001 when she was nearly two-years-old. Kailey has attended Yukon Public Schools her entire life.

The 17-year-old spent her child years outdoors playing sports with her friends but the summer between her 8th grade and freshman years, Kailey traded in her basketball shoes for a chance to wear the crown and join the pageant life.

Kailey received an invitation letter in the mail for an upcoming pageant that summer between eighth and ninth grade, so she made the decision to take advantage of the opportunity. She said she had always thought she wanted to play basketball or soccer in school but after she began doing pageants, that quickly changed.

However, she still misses playing basketball and soccer, so she enjoys playing with her friends for fun when she has free time.

She said she never saw herself becoming a “pageant girl”, but one of the reasons she wants to win in December is so she has a platform to go around and talk to people about important issues.

“It all happened really fast,” Kailey said. “It was surreal at first, but I loved it from the very start. To have a chance to be Miss Oklahoma Teen would be amazing and it provides such a great platform to go around and talk to and meet a ton of great people.”

When Kailey heads to Shawnee in December to compete for the Miss Oklahoma Teen crown, she will compete in an evening gown competition, active wear competition and go through an interview session with five different judges.

In the Miss USA system, there is no talent competition.

Kailey said she is taking the pageant life year-by-year, but if she wins Miss Oklahoma Teen, she knows her life with pageants will change drastically in the near and far future.

“It would be life-changing,” Kailey said. “Having a chance to compete for Miss Teen USA would be incredible.”

Working toward her goal of becoming Miss Oklahoma Teen isn’t the only thing Kailey has been doing in the past year.

After going through a difficult time in her life, Kailey spontaneously decided to join the United States Army and go to Basic Training, which began in June. Kailey left for Basic Training on June 14 and traveled to Fort Jackson, South Carolina where she went through some of the toughest days and weeks of her life. She made it through and attended Basic Training graduation on August 25 and returned to Yukon On August 29.

She has an eight-year contract with the U.S. Army and will get her college paid for no matter where she decides to go next fall. If the pageant life does not work out, Kailey said she will go to college and then become an Officer in the Army and do her 20 years of service. However, she will be a part of the ROTC wherever she attends college even if she is still doing pageants.

She said she learned a lot about herself throughout Basic Training.

“There were so many times throughout Basic Training where I told myself, ‘I am done, I can’t do this,’”, Kailey said. “But I would just take it chow-by-chow. I would wake up at 4 a.m., make it to morning chow, then make it to chow at lunch, chow at dinner and then go to bed and do it all over again. It was pretty incredible when I graduated. I still don’t believe I did it.”

When she returned to Yukon, Kailey was already several weeks behind from the start of the new school year. With just 16 credits remaining before she could graduate high school, the school district advised her to take her classes at the alternative center, where she is now just three credits shy of completing her required hours for graduation.

Kailey will complete those hours before the fall semester is in the books, but she will walk with the rest of her classmates this May at the 2017 Yukon High School graduation ceremony.

As for the next step in her education, Kailey will have a plethora of opportunities. During her high school years, she has been invited to Stanford to come and visit the esteemed university because of her high academic achievements, she was named Miss Congeniality, named Miss Teen Yukon and was named Student First Sergeant at Basic Training.

Kailey said before she attended Basic Training and had to be away from her family for a long-period of time, she thought she wanted to attend a school like Stanford or Pepperdine on the west coast but she wants to be closer to her family, so as of right now, she is leaning heavily toward the University of Oklahoma.

“I always wanted to go to college on the west-coast,” Kailey said. “I always thought I wanted to go far away, but being at Basic Training really showed me that I don’t want to be far away from my family.”

The YHS senior said it would mean “everything” to her to be able to win Miss Oklahoma Teen USA because of how hard she has worked and everything she has had to overcome to get to where she is at right now.

Kailey said being able to represent her hometown of Yukon as Miss Oklahoma Teen would be a tremendous honor.

“Yukon is such an amazing place,” Kailey said. “It has grown so much and is one of the most well-known and respected towns in Oklahoma now. It would be an incredible honor to be able to represent Yukon as the Miss Oklahoma Teen.”

She said she wants the national perception of Oklahoma to be that the people of this state are nice and genuine.

“Most people I have met from different states across the country say everyone they have met from Oklahoma is very nice,” Kailey said. “People here are so genuine and I want everyone in our nation to know what great people we have here in this state.”

When asked if she could change one thing in the world today, she said she would like to see obesity addressed across the world.

“There are so many people who are unhealthy and having health problems across the world,” Kailey said. “Of course, there are a TON of issues that need to be addressed in the world and in our country, but I’ve always thought obesity is a topic that needs to be talked about with more importance. Being healthy and having a healthy lifestyle is important.

“However, I do understand that having a healthy lifestyle is an expensive lifestyle, so that is something that I think needs to be changed as well. Healthy foods always cost more than unhealthy foods and gym memberships are too expensive. Those are things that need to be addressed.”

Kailey said if she is fortunate enough to be named Miss Oklahoma Teen and compete in national pageants as she gets older, she hopes people from her hometown of Yukon will think of her as a caring person and someone who was always there for others when they needed someone or something.

“I hope people will think of me as a caring person,” Kailey said. “I will always be there for people and I hope people know that. No matter what, I always want and strive to be a caring person.”

The Yukon Miss Teen knows the value of family and says her family is extremely important to her and has been a major influence on who she is today and where she is now.

Kailey has three siblings, a twin sister, older sister and older brother and was raised by her mother and grandparents. She said she has been through a lot with her family but loves them dearly and says she wouldn’t be where she is today without her family.

“My family is incredibly important to me,” Kailey said. “I love all of them very dearly and they all are very special to me in specific ways. I knew I loved them before Basic Training, but being away at Basic Training with no contact with them really showed me just how much my family means to me.”

When asked what is something unique about her that most people don’t know and if she had just one day where she could choose to do anything in the world she wanted to do she said that she likes to write stories and she is good at it and that she would go skydiving.

However, the skydiving will have to wait until January 29 when she turns 18.

“A lot of people know almost everything about me because I am not one to hold anything back but there are some, or maybe a lot that don’t know I like to write,” Kailey said. “It’s something I have always enjoyed doing. If I could choose just one thing to do if I had a completely free day, it would definitely be skydiving. I’ve always wanted to go but you have to be 18, so I have to wait a few more months.”

She also said if she could pass on one piece of advice to a young child growing up, she would say “Let your success speak for you and success is the best revenge.”

“Growing up I have learned that there will always be people who will try and bring you down,” Kailey said. “I am not a vengeful person at all but I heard the quotes, ‘Let your success speak for you and success is the best revenge,’ one time, and it has stuck with me ever since.”

Kailey has a GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/28bwm6k. She is aiming to raise $2,500 to help cover the entry fee cost for the pageant and the cost of the wardrobe.

She said one thing she wants people to understand about her is that she is a real human being and not a stereotypical pageant girl.

“There are many different stereotypes out there for pageant girls and one thing I want people to know about me is that I am a real person,” Kailey said. “I have been through a lot of adversity in my life and I worked hard and take pride in getting to where I am at right now. I am definitely not your Barbie Doll-type pageant girl. I want to win Miss Oklahoma Teen for a purpose and I want to try my hardest and make a difference.”

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