The days approaching the preliminary Miss America competition were busy and filled with opportunities which Jalene had never experienced; brunches, interviews and meetings with the judges. On the evening prior to the pageant, the cliché of “out of the mouth of babes” was never more valid. While the contestants sat dining and enjoying conversation, the young daughter of one of the judges said, “the ballerina dancing the swan dance will be the winner. Obviously, the young girl was simplistic in her comments, but the message was profound.

Each of the contestants was a naïve teen, but they had enough experience to realize this was a fabricated contest. If Jalene had the life experience then as she possesses now, she would have walked out of the restaurant and declined to compete. However, she and the other contenders remained hopeful the youngster was in error.

The big day came with the final rehearsals and preparation for this memorable time. For Jalene, this was not merely a beauty contest, but an opportunity to be awarded a scholarship for her college education.   Hair was coiffed, make up was flawless, talents were rehearsed, formal gowns where elegantly hanging in the dressing rooms and the swimwear was perfect.

Jalene believed her butterfly tummy was probably akin to that of the other girls.  However, Jalene carefully observed the “Swan Lake” ballerina. Her confidence surpassed that of any of the other contestants. The curtain arose and it was “show time.” As the evening progressed and the winners were announced, the judge’s daughter held the truth; Miss City was (the ballerina performing Swan Lake-name purposely withheld).

Backstage the competitors whispered of the inequities of this event. Why did this happen? Years later Jalene would come to understand community politics for events such as this. Jalene never again viewed any competition as fair and honest. If something as minor as a preliminary beauty pageant in a “small town, USA” could be rigged, so too could competitions of far greater prestige and monetary value.

For the remainder of Jalene’s senior year of high school and the months which followed in preparation to enter college, life was as routine as it had been her previous 18 years. Glenn and Jayne remained abusive mandating Jalene provide all her life’s necessities, but also to be an unpaid maid, chef and laundress for the family.

However, during the summer following her high school graduation, Jalene began working two jobs to pay for her college education. It was not the era of student loans.  Hard work and determination were the pathways for a college education if the students had no financial assistance.

Jalene’s finances didn’t permit her to live the coveted college life of residing in a dorm, going to class and then socializing with fellow campus residents. She was envious of her classmates, living the typical university life while meeting countless new friends from across the nation. As she overheard conversations of their adventures, she realized her life would probably not include these kinds of memories.

Jalene worked multiple jobs weekly.  Because she resided at home with her parents and remained void of a car, traveling to and from her college classes necessitated carpooling with other commuting students. Therefore her part-time “after class” jobs had to be scheduled to accommodate her fellow commuters.

Toward the end of her freshman year at the local, state university, her desire for the routine college life became more alluring. Jalene was aware her church denomination offered a scholarship to their out of state, private college; donating tuition, room and board to the selected student. Jalene realized this would provide the opportunity to move from home and experience the campus life she so earnestly desired.

However, the college curriculum was of religious studies only and would not offer the array of degrees which the large state colleges provided. Therefore, if Jalene was the chosen recipient, she would have to determine an alternate degree from the one she was earning at the state university.

Nonetheless, Jalene applied for the scholarship, awaiting the outcome. She realized the scholarship would not only present new opportunities for her, but also give her a reprieve from the constant abuse from Glenn and Jayne. She was ecstatic when she was awarded the scholarship.

Please join me on Jalene’s journey as she begins a new adventure.

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