BLOG: Becoming a Catalyst for Change
Written by Miss Missouri Teen USA 2017 Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff
From the moment my name was called as the winner of Miss Missouri Teen USA, I knew I wanted to create positive change in my community.
Philosophy is a concept so dense that the majority of people fail to comprehend its vastness. As a 17-year-old, I would not consider myself a philosopher…yet, through self-reflection and meditation, I believe you can find the truths you believe to be self-evident. It is important to have your views challenged, examined and affirmed in order to form your own personal code of conduct. My philosophy is formed by broad ideas on reality, faith, epistemology, politics, and most important, equality. I place strong emphasis on treating others with dignity regardless of socioeconomic stature.
As a girl living in a predominantly Caucasian suburban community, it would have been an accepted social norm if I had never left the bubble of Parkville. My parents, however, made it a necessity that I saw life from all angles. Beginning at age 6, I accompanied my father to his workplace. He was the Director of the Youth Advisory Board at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, which worked to promote philanthropy & service among young people. I was able to experience change unfolding in my city through positive social interaction and diversity of cultures. One of my earliest memories was volunteering on Troost and Prospect, an area that most Kansas Citians think is “dangerous”. I would constantly bombard my father with questions like “Why are these houses not very nice?”, “Why does my new friend not have nice clothes?” and, “Papi, how come all these people have all different colored skin?”. I vividly remember many youths whose families struggled to make ends meet but I never considered them to be of less quality just because their family needed food stamps. I saw them as young adults who had an amazing opportunity to be engaged and active with the Youth Advisory Board which granted them a large scholarship to their college of choice.
These photos show the outcome of communities working together despite cultural and economic differences to create a better future for us all. Through interacting with a diverse community, I opened up a dialogue of social awareness as a Kindergartener. I still have a responsibility to continue to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my community and work towards a system that benefits everyone. The greatest thing I have accomplished during my reign as Miss Missouri Teen USA has been the touching the minds and hearts of hundreds of young girls and boys I have spoken with. I have worked to teach the youth of Missouri, the leaders of tomorrow, to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I believe this is how we close the achievement gap.
As a young adult, I feel comfortable in diverse communities. I can walk through Harlem in New York, markets in Mexico, fashion runways in Chicago, and the halls of the Missouri State Capitol. I credit this to the influence of being exposed to a broad spectrum of communities as a young girl. My parents work exposed me to people in need. I accompanied my Mother on visits to catastrophically injured workers whose lives were changed by industrial accidents. I learned empathy, kindness and not to fear people that are different from me. I will forever be Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff, Miss Missouri Teen USA 2017, a young woman who believes in equal opportunity for all and sees the good in everyone.