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Miss Northwest focuses on prevention

Kasandra Meehl, 19, was crowned Miss Northwest 2006 last month at the annual Northwest Water Carnival in Detroit Lakes.

Meehl, Perham, lives in Fargo during the school year and attends Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she is a junior, for mathematics education on the secondary level.

Via e-mail, she answered several questions about pageants, future plans and her platform.

Have you been in a pageant before? If so, what one(s)?

In 2004, I was Miss Perham and ran the following year in Miss Minnesota 2005. This is my third pageant, all of which have been affiliated with the Miss America System.

How was this one (Miss Northwest) different?

The Northwest area is one of my favorites in Minnesota. This pageant is one of the largest closed pageants in the state of Minnesota. By that, I mean there are two different types of pageants, a closed and an open.

In an open pageant, anyone living in and/or attending school in Minnesota can run in these pageants. In a closed, such as the Northwest, you must live or attend school in the restricted boundary of the pageant.

I am so lucky to have obtained a title in which I can work from East Grand Forks down Highway 10 to Wadena, east to Alexandria and back north to Moorhead.

This area is all small towns and families, something that I love and relate to.

Why did you pick to run for Miss Northwest?

This pageant was the next step in fulfilling my dream of becoming Miss Minnesota. I chose to run in the Northwest system because of the girls who have held this title. All of which have been not only beautiful and talented, but very outstanding individuals.

I spent a week at Miss Minnesota 2005 with Hannah Brandes. She was amazing, and when the opportunity came for me to run this year, I took it.

What have you taken away from the experience?

By being yourself and maintaining your values, anything is possible. In pageants, many girls lose themselves and show the judges who they "want" to be. I have found that by being myself and loving the person I am, I truly can accomplish my dreams.

Tell me about your platform.

My platform is a journey of which I have been a part of for the last six years. I have planned, started and maintained several mentorship and drug prevention programs.

In my heart, I feel that each young child and adult needs to be taught the negative effects of drug use. In my life, I have been bombarded with drugs, alcohol, and many other pressures that all of today's youth face each day.

As Miss Northwest, I will be working in schools to enhance and bring awareness to drug abuse as well as drug use. Drug prevention in all areas of Minnesota needs to be our main focus.

Continuously schools and families focus on involvement in sports and being active in schools. Although this is important, we cannot forget to inform the youth as young as kindergarten about the dangers of drug use.

The problem that our state faces with drug prevention is that there are no state-based programs that guarantee drug prevention in every school. It is my goal to better this area and the state of Minnesota by not only starting a program, but encouraging continuous programs from K-12.

Most programs stop between fourth and seventh grade. As Miss Northwest, I will extend these programs and guarantee that more awareness will be brought to the issues of drug prevention and abuse.

What are your future plans?

I have three years left to complete my degree at MSUM. Once I complete my education, I have hopes of completing graduate school as well as look into obtaining my Masters within the future years ahead.

My hope is that I can return to my hometown area, or someplace like the Northwest, to teach secondary mathematics. I love small towns and family, thus I can only hope to return to be somewhere closer to them.

My mother and father live in Perham and my sister's family lives in New York Mills so the area of the lakes country is ideal.

What is your anticipation for Miss Minnesota?

So far we have a young group of girls heading to state. I plan on working hard all year, physically each day as well as mentally.

I have scheduled interviews a few times each month as well as planning many days of which will be spent mentoring in schools about the positives of healthy living and negatives of drug use.

With a solid year of preparation, I believe that my dream can come true. I want to be Miss Minnesota 2007. By next June 15-16, I will be prepared for that position.

Were you nervous being on stage or does it feel natural to you?

With anything, practice makes perfect. I have become so comfortable on stage when performing that it is almost second nature to me. One thing that has made my performances much more solid is that each time I put myself in front of an audience, I assure myself that it is me, 110 percent walking out.

By staying true to my roots, I can guarantee that I am doing my best and showing everyone what my talents really are.

What was your talent? Why?

For Miss Northwest, I chose to perform "Gimme Gimme" a Broadway vocal from "Thoroughly Modern Millie." I chose it because of it's up-tempo, fun, theatrical lyrics. The performance was unlike anything I had ever done and I loved it.

Did you win any of the portions of the Miss Northwest?

I won personal interview, which was done off stage earlier in the day with the panel of judges. Each contestant has a 45-second intro and closing, as well as 12 solid minutes of questioning. I also won swimsuit and onstage interview the night of the pageant.

Anything else you'd like to add?

My platform is focused with drug prevention and awareness. I would encourage the community of Detroit Lakes to e-mail me with any questions, concerns or comments they feel would be beneficial to improving drug awareness in the area.

If anyone in the DL area has an event they would like me to attend, speak at or entertain at, I am available. They can contact me at