Pageant veteran has a shelf full of crowns. She has won state and national pageant titles, most notably being crowned International Junior Teen a couple of years back. But when she won the local title of , Kayla couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
“Winning the first preliminary pageant that I entered in the ,” said Watson, a senior football cheerleader at “This title has meant a lot to me - this is Miss America! It was a huge deal to me that I had the honor of representing Gwinnett in the Miss America system.”
Representing Gwinnett County throughout the year, Kayla embarked on a quest to leave a strong legacy- and to live up to the title that has been held by celebrities like Diana DeGarmo. This Saturday at the , she will pass on the crown to her successor, leaving big shoes to fill.
Throughout her reign, the 17-year-old has hosted and participated in a variety of service projects and charity events. Coordinating and spearheading the Miracle Prom Fashion Show this yeaShe also organized a collection drive to support th
Through Kayla’s organization, Angels in Disguise, she single-handedly spoke to more than 1,200 kids at area elementary schools and distributed close to 2,000 “Anonymous Acts of Kindness Cards” this year to encourage the children to make a difference in their schools and communities.
“That was one of the highlights of my year as Miss Gwinnett County’s Outstanding Teen,” said Watson. “I love talking to young children about living a lifestyle of kindness and inspiring them to know that being kind to one person can cause a ripple effect that can change an entire school or community. They are very open to the message and are so excited when they come up with ways they can do something kind for someone else.”
Among many other appearances, Kayla was a celebrity reader at Discover Mills Dr. Seuss celebration, participated in the Children’s Miracle Network National Pancake Day at the and donated dresses to Caitlin’s Closet, an organization founded by former Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Caitlin Brunell. Kayla also traveled outside the state to be a featured model at a runway show in South Carolina. An active participant in Relay for Life for as long as she can remember, Kayla was honored to attend the Survivor’s Reception this year, where she spoke with cancer survivors and offered encouragement and hope.
As Miss Gwinnett County’s Outstanding Teen, Kayla was selected from young women across the country as a Top 25 Cover Model for Four Points Magazine, the official magazine of the Miss America Pageant. She was also nationally featured in a full-page spread in Tiara Magazine, and was named a finalist in Gladys Magazine's "Gladys Girls" who make a difference.
A scholar athlete, Kayla is a member of the National Honor and Merit Scholars Society and Beta Club. She is an eight-time recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award medal from President Barack Obama, and recently earned another Gold medal for 310 hours of volunteer service in 2012. Since 2011, Kayla has logged nearly 600 hours of volunteer service. She has been honored by having a national award named after her, "The Kayla Watson Humanitarian Award," dedicated to those who pursue and live a lifestyle of humanitarian service to others. Last fall, she was honored to receive a Resolution of Recognition from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
Representing Gwinnett County at the Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen Pageant in Columbus, Kayla brought home the coveted overall Photogenic Award, receiving a silver engraved award and scholarship money while representing the county exceptionally well during the state competition.
As her year as Miss Gwinnett County’s Outstanding Teen comes to a close, Kayla has truly left her mark as outstanding teen and role model.
(Editor's Note: Contributed by the Miss Gwinnett County Outstanding Teen program).