Eyes on the prize

Kristen Eddings, this year’s Miss Kitsap, with 2005’s Miss Katie Kitsap Joely Stodden of Bremerton. - Courtesy photo
Kristen Eddings, this year’s Miss Kitsap, with 2005’s Miss Katie Kitsap Joely Stodden of Bremerton.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

For Kristen Eddings, this year’s Miss Kitsap, the past four years have been a time for learning and personal growth.

The 21-year-old Silverdale native and former Miss Poulsbo is confident her time spent out of the spotlight will serve her well as she once again vies for the title of Miss Washington.

Michele Nilsen-Wasson, executive director of the Miss Kitsap Scholarship Program, has seen an immense change in Eddings as well.

“Kristen has taken the past four years off and really discovered who she wants to be and what she wants to do with her life,” Nilsen-Wasson said. “We work daily together and the growth I’ve seen in her and the young woman she’s become, it’s mesmerizing. It’s been an absolute joy.”

Eddings, whose platform issue is international education, will join 20 other local women in this year’s Miss Washington competition. The preliminaries start at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 6 at the Champions Center in Tacoma, with the finals beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, July 7.

Eddings was 17 when she won Miss Poulsbo in 2002 — just before graduating from Klahowya Secondary School. She went on to Miss Washington, as is the tradition, placing in the Top 10 and winning the People’s Choice award.

Now four years later, she has returned, but with a new, more mature perspective.

“In four years, I have gained founded opinions,” she said. “When I was 17, I would have given you my opinion without doing the research. As a 17-year-old I wasn’t prepared (for Miss Washington).”

Now with a bachelor’s degree in political science specializing in international affairs from Seattle Pacific University in hand, Eddings is preparing for her future. She has already planned a course of action, based on whether or not she wins the Miss Washington title.

If she doesn’t win, she says she plans to come back and apply for the Peace Corps right away and will join just as soon as her year of service with Miss Kitsap concludes.

If crowned Miss Washington, Eddings will prepare for the Miss America competition. She plans to launch a national campaign for international education. She already is the national spokesperson for the organization Bridges To Understanding and if she wins, she’ll fly to the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) USA headquarters in New York and become the national spokeswoman for that organization.

Her Miss Washington platform is “centered on students being provided with increased access to the world through the organizations Bridges To Understanding and iEARN.” The second element of her platform is the promotion of Rotary International’s student exchange, group study exchange and internationally focused education programs.

It was while working in an orphanage in Sierra Leone last summer that Eddings realized the importance of international education.

“I realized how important it was that children be exposed to the stories I had learned (there),” she said. “Children in different cultural contexts should learn from each other. The most important thing that comes out of it is relationship building.”

If crowned Miss Washington, Eddings hopes to team with Rotary International in promoting student exchange, international scholarships and group study exchanges.

“The reason why Rotary is so important is they have an international focus,” Eddings said.

As Miss Washington, it also would be her role to promote the organization and what it stands for.

“Miss Washington is a scholarship organization first and foremost,” Eddings said. “I don’t know that people see the validity of The Miss America Organization for what it is. It’s because of the Miss America Organization that I’ve been able to go to college.”

She has received a combined total of more than $11,000 in scholarship money through Miss Poulsbo and Miss Kitsap, both of which are affiliated with The Miss America Organization.

Eddings plans to continue her education and hopes to obtain a Master of Arts in international studies focusing on Japan.

As for the competition Eddings will soon face, she has only positive words in describing the other women also vying for the title.

“The incredible thing about The Miss America Organization is the caliber of women who compete is substantially different than any other pageant,” Eddings said. “These women all want to change the world. The synergy when you walk into the room, makes you tingle. This is an amazing group of people.”

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