UA Student Who Survived Childhood Cancer Aims for Miss Alabama Crown
A University of Alabama student and childhood cancer survivor who was recently crowned Miss Birmingham 2023 is preparing for a second run at the state title.
Hannah Adams, a sophomore at the University, is double majoring in political science and public relations. The 19-year-old Birmingham native was crowned Miss Covered Bridge 2022 and placed in the Top 12 semifinalists when she competed in this year's Miss Alabama pageant.
To learn more about Hannah and her mission to become Miss Alabama 2023, check out the exclusive Q&A below, and visit hannahleeadams.com.
Q: What made you decide to start competing in pageants in the first place?
Adams: I never thought that I would ever compete in pageants. But when I was 14 years old, I heard about the Miss America Outstanding Teen organization, which is the little sister program of Miss America, and I was encouraged to compete. I never really thought about it before, but I saw that you could earn scholarship money; I would have a chance to perform my talent and serve my local community, which are things that I was already doing. So I went and competed for Miss Florida's outstanding teen. I had no idea what I was doing. I'd never done a dance solo before, and I got first runner-up, second place, in my very first year. That experience really motivated me to want to go back, so I worked really hard over the course of the next year and then won Miss Florida's outstanding teen. Then I went to Miss America's outstanding teen and won the overall service award. And during my years in this Florida's Outstanding Teen pageant, my family and I moved to Alabama but I got to serve in Florida for two years because of the pandemic. I accomplished 215 appearances and spoke with countless students and organizations.
Q: Let's talk about your charity organization and some of your social impacts.
Adams: My social impact initiative is Hannah's Hope: Finding a Cure for Pediatric Cancer. It all started when I was diagnosed with childhood cancer at five and a half years old. I had stage-three neuroblastoma, which meant that a cancerous tumor was enveloping my left kidney. I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and I was declared cancer-free 13 years ago as of November 25th. That experience was really what motivated me to want to help other children battling cancer, and I've been able to do that through my involvement in the American Cancer Society, serving on their national advisory council and helping raise money for Relay for Life, while also training 30 youth advocates on advocacy and sharing their stories with legislators.
In addition to that, I've worked with Hyundai's Hope on Wheels as their national youth ambassador and was able to travel with them for two years to 40 hospitals, help raise and present over $30 million dollars in pediatric cancer research grants and really connect with kids on a relatable level where, you know, I understood what they were going through, and it's just so special to have that connection.
Recently, I started working with the American Childhood Cancer Organization as their What About Kids state coordinator and ambassador. In that role, I get to work in states throughout the country, on state-level legislation and creating state research funding. So far, we've been able to do that in five states and have been able to create over $70 million in pediatric cancer research funding. A priority that I'm really focusing on right now is Alabama, and for us to get state research funding here. Lastly, I run my own nonprofit called Helping You Get Stronger, or HUDS, for childhood cancer, where we focus on legislative awareness, family support and community awareness. We love to send care packages and encouraging videos to the kids and donate to different hospitals. We also hold community awareness events at UA during September, which is childhood cancer awareness month. I got everyone in my sorority to wear a gold ribbon and we've written hundreds of cards to children battling cancer.
My nonprofit got a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health for $25,000 a couple of weeks ago. So that's going to help us expand our endeavors. I think the Miss Alabama organization is really what has inspired a heart of service for me and given me a platform to continue to do that. I didn't start my social impact initiative because I wanted to compete in pageants, it was already a part of my life and I know I'm going to continue to do it my entire life even after Miss Alabama.
Q: How does it feel to be heading back to the Miss Alabama competition after last year's competition?
Adams: I'm so excited! Last year, as Miss covered bridge 2022, I had the honor of placing in the top 12 as a semifinalist, I won the overall red carpet/evening gown preliminary award and won the Katherine Crosby Community Service Award. For my first time competing in Miss Alabama, it was such an honor to be there surrounded by so many incredible women, and now getting to represent my hometown of Birmingham and work with the incredible Miss Birmingham Board of Directors, I know that I'm going to be so prepared stepping into Miss Alabama next year. For me, the job and Miss Birmingham is a job that's not about you. It's really about how you can serve and connect with the people in your local community, seeing a problem and really wanting to do something about it.
I think throughout the process of preparing for Miss Alabama, I can practice my talent every single day, I can know everything about current events, but it's really about preparing my heart and understanding the vision of want to do as Miss Alabama, learning about the job, and truly having that servant leadership that is such an important component of it.
Q: What do you have to say to anyone interested in competing in a pageant, but hasn't done so yet?
Adams: I would say totally go for it. Don't let the stigmas of what other people think about it affect your perception. I think the biggest thing for me when it comes to preparing for a competition is simply striving to be 1% better every day. I think so often, we set these really big lofty goals, but we're like, wait, how do we even get there? So by having the mindset, you know what, I'm just going to be 1% better every day and you do that for a year, then you're 365% better. It really comes down to knowing yourself and being authentic. People always say, be yourself. I think be yourself and know yourself and know your why, know who you want to be in the role. It's such an important part of really just knowing yourself because I think that that's really what comes across as genuine and authentic. They don't want someone who has the perfect answer. They want someone who's real and can really connect with people. So I encourage every young woman to compete in a scholarship competition, you can learn so much from it and who knows, you might even get your whole college pay for it like me, it's really great opportunity.
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