Miss Kansas on Wednesday told some local elementary students she hopes they won't choose to abuse alcohol and drugs.
Devon Brothers may never forget Wednesday, the day she got to wear the Miss Kansas crown for a few minutes.
But the real Miss Kansas, Amy Keller, hopes the fourth-grade girl and other Quail Run School students also remember the message from Keller: Making bad decisions about alcohol and drugs can ruin your life.
"I want them to think about the decisions they have to make and really analyze them before they actually make them," Keller said shortly before speaking to students gathered in the school's gymnasium.
Keller, 24, a Wichita State University senior who was crowned last June, has made 450 similar presentations at schools throughout Kansas. The appearances are sponsored by the Miss Kansas organization and the Kansas Children's League.
Keller laughed and joked with the students for about 45 minutes, telling them about herself and about her crown before singing an operatic solo for them.
But her key message was to get them to think about the decisions they will have to make regarding substance abuse.
During her talk, Keller told the students how her best friend was severely injured three years ago in an accident caused by a drunken driver. Her friend, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car and later died from her injuries.
Keller gave the children four challenges at the end of her presentation: to get a good education, to set goals for themselves, to find positive role models and to volunteer in their community.
"It helps them gain self-esteem so they're not going to bother with the drugs and alcohol," she said. "That seems to be the most prevalent basis for a kid to want to be a substance abuser."
Keller said she hopes that her presentations help.
"I only have an hour in their whole lifetimes to try to convince them to stay away from drugs and alcohol," she said. "So I try to do as much as I possibly can. And hopefully, I've changed a few lives."
The message seemed to get through.
After the event, Brian Pipkin, a fourth-grader, said, "I thought everything she said was pretty right about not doing drugs. And it was pretty sad about her friend."
Another fourth-grader, Jake Schneider, called her talk "educational."
"You could learn a lot if you would decide not to smoke and not to drink and drive," he said.
Even Devon, who might have been somewhat distracted by wearing the crown, caught the message.
"It was interesting," Devon said. "I think it was kind of sad about her friend, about not wearing a seat belt."
And it was clear Devon enjoyed wearing the crown.
"I thought it was kind of neat," she said, "and it was pretty."