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Even though Miss Northwest Chantal Wilson is attending law school in Boston, she still finds time to fly back to Detroit Lakes and fulfill her duties as Miss Northwest. Last summer she had a slumber party for 20 local girls, and she also helping a group of 10 girls earn their Duke of Edinburgh Award. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Miss Northwest makes it her mission to empower girls with self esteem

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Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Miss Northwest Chantal Wilson has a plan, and she’s not afraid to work hard to fulfill those plans.

She’s known since seventh grade that she was going into law. She’s now in her second year at the Boston University School of Law.

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“I’ve been working for this one for so long. I’ll come up with another one later,” she said with a laugh of her goals.

After being bullied at a young age, she knew she wanted to show other young girls that it’s about finding their self-confidence and taking on the bullies head-on. She’s now started a website and is involved with multiple projects to help young girls with self-esteem.

She looked up to her older cousin, who was in pageants, and knew that one day she wanted to follow in her cousin’s footsteps. Today she is the Miss Northwest crown holder and is headed to the Miss Minnesota stage.

Only one goal has eluded her as of right now, but more on that later.

Encouraging youngsters

Wilson said her platform, “The Power of Potential: Beat the Bully,” has become such a prevalent topic, with legislation even strengthening anti-bullying laws. Schools are seeing more and more bullying, and stories of bullying are being read and seen everywhere.

Wilson said there’s nothing a bully hates more than someone who is confident and ignores what’s being said.

“You’re in control of your own future,” she said is her message.

She started the website www.thereshelives.com to give young girls especially the tools to become more empowered and self-confident in who they are and who they want to become.

“Develop what your interests are and run with it,” she said is part of her message. “It doesn’t have to be a big problem if you don’t let it.”

She has made it her mission to work with youngsters, building self-confidence, especially in young girls. “How do we help our girls stop comparing themselves to others and start appreciating their differences and unique personalities?”

Being bullied as a young girl, Wilson said she was lucky to have a strong support system to get her through that period of time. In return, she’s working to be a positive role model and help girls find their self-confidence and not be bullied.

She started working with the Girl Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“It encourages kids to be well-rounded,” she said of the award program. “I’m helping lead those girls through this to get this award.”

Helping young girls see what they’re interested in for a career is also important to Wilson. She said she knew in seventh grade that she wanted to go into law.

She’s going through a securities regulations course at law school, which she said may sound boring to some, but is a favorite of hers because it’s about protecting people.

After she graduates from law school in Boston, Wilson plans to return to the Twin Cities for a job.

“I’m a Minnesota girl,” she said.

Even though Wilson is located on the east coast during her reign as Miss Northwest, she’s been able to be involved with several different events in Detroit Lakes.

Last weekend she flew back to Minnesota very briefly to help out at the Senior Dinner, hosted by the Detroit Lakes Jaycees.

Last summer she interned with Briggs, Ramstad & Skoyles Law Firm in Detroit Lakes, which gave her more opportunities to be involved in Detroit Lakes-area events.

One event she is planning for this summer is a two-day camping trip for the girls involved in her Duke of Edinburgh Award program, which she started with the Girl Scouts.

She also hosted a Miss Northwest Slumber Party for 20 girls because she said growing up, sleepovers were coveted events.

She planned friendship bracelet making, a healthy meal, planting flowers, Zumba lessons, “personality piggy banks,”  the history of ice cream (with samples of course), a talent show and dance party. The night was scheduled to end with lights out at 12:30 a.m., but little did Wilson know that was a far cry from what would actually happen.

She had no idea young girls could stay up until 5 a.m., she said with a laugh.

Why be involved in pageants

“It’s a unique opportunity to have a board of people asking what you want to do and we’ll help you do it,” Wilson said of her enthusiasm for being involved in pageants.

The Miss Northwest pageant board, she said, has been so supportive of her and her mission. Besides her projects in Detroit Lakes, Wilson is planning service projects in other locations as well, like one in Minneapolis in May.

She started competing in pageants because a cousin that she looked up to was a part of them. After starting out as 2007 Miss Outstanding Teen, Wilson said she is happy to be a part of the Miss America system because it is a “scholarship and service organization. I think that’s really true.”

Besides all of her service projects she’s working on, to prepare for her trip to Miss Minnesota in June, Wilson just signed up for rock climbing lessons. She said she likes fun activities to keep active and fit rather than just running on a treadmill.

“It’s been really fun” being Miss Northwest and preparing for the next step, she said. “I’m really looking forward to a fun week (at the Miss Minnesota competition).”

If she should win the Miss Minnesota crown, she plans to take a one-year leave of absence from law school.

Regardless of taking the Miss Minnesota crown or not, Wilson said she plans to keep the connections she’s made and continue with her service projects and her platform.

She said the Miss Northwest program and the support she’s gotten from Detroit Lakes shows the “strength of a smaller community.” People have been willing to work with her on whatever project she plans to help the community and its young residents.

“I’ve done what I want to do with my title,” she added.

That final goal to conquer

One continuous goal Wilson’s working on and hasn’t quite conquered is to be a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Every year she submits original recipes she’s created, hoping to be recognized. No luck yet, but that’s not stopping her from continuing her quest.

“I’m a sweets fan, so I usually bake cookies or cakes. Recently I’ve branched out to breakfast foods,” Wilson said with a laugh.

She grew up cooking and baking, and this competition is just something she’s determined to accomplish. Sometimes her creations work, sometimes they don’t, she admits.

“It’s a fun hobby and I’m hoping my skills will develop over time.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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