By Stan Friedman
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 24, 2011) – Natalie Davis, a member of Dassel Covenant Church, was named Miss Minnesota last Saturday and will spend the next year promoting her platform – autism awareness.
The 20-year-old is a student at St. Olaf College, where she is majoring in chemistry with concentrations in education and biomedical studies. Davis plans to become a developmental pediatrician.
In addition to winning the title, Davis also won the Miss America Community Service Award. “The whole reason I am involved in this program is because of my passion for community service, particularly to help children with disabilities,” she writes on her blog.
Davis is passionate about helping people with disabilities because her brother, Trevor, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.
In 2008, Davis founded the Awesome Club, a social skills program for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other disabilities. Each week at the club, the kids do outdoor activities, play group games, and engage in other activities.
“Providing a social atmosphere for kids with autism to hang out and act like typical teens is extremely instrumental in improving their quality of life because it gives them the opportunity to build friendships,” Davis says. “These programs boost the self-esteem of individuals with ASD and prepare them for life after high school when communication is key to success in the work field and in life.”
Davis was inspired to start the club after a program implemented at Trevor’s high school during his junior year helped improve his social skills. He just completed his freshman year at St. Cloud State and helps usher at the church.
Davis advanced to the Miss Minnesota competition after winning the Miss Mankota title. She will compete for the Miss America title in 2012.
She has won similar contests. She earned the title of Miss Minnesota’s Outstanding Teen, during which she also promoted autism awareness. She won the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award during national competition six weeks later.
Davis is the daughter of Dave and Corrie Davis. The family is active in the congregation, and Pastor Keith Carlson says of the new Miss Minnesota, “It has been a blessing to see her grow in her faith and love for the Lord.”
Davis is the third Covenanter in the last three years to win a state title in the Miss America pageant. Ashley Young was named 2008 Miss North Dakota and promoted her anti-bullying platform. In the same year, Kirsten Haglund was named Miss Michigan and went on to be crowned Miss America, using the opportunity to spread awareness of eating disorders.
For more information on autism, visit these websites: