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Maria Maldonado (Miss Jeffersontown 2002)is working on Congressman Fletcher's gubernatorial campaign in Lexington. In February 2003, she traveled to NYC with the University of Kentucky Women's Choir. The choir was one of only two choirs selected nationwide to perform at Carnegie Hall.


From the Courier-Journal Neighborhoods, Monday, August 27, 2001
By Martha Elson

Miss Kentucky gets help from friends
Donations allow her family to attend pageant

Miss Kentucky Monica Hardin said her family never really had a vacation when she was growing up in Valley Station.

Now, with an all-out fundraising effort under way by Assumption High School and other contributors, Hardin’s whole family will be vacationing in Atlantic City, N.J., for the week of the Sept. 22 Miss American pageant, with all expenses paid.

“I don’t have to worry about them,” the 19-year-old Assumption graduate said Friday, wiping away tears after an emotional rally for her in the gym, where she was cheered by about 900 students. “That was a stress. I’m so thankful.”

During her speech, she told the students that she knew “God had an awesome purpose for my life. It seemed like the odds were against me, but I’m doing it anyway.”

Sophomores Nicki Smeland, left, and Kirstie Cook looked at Hardin's crown as she shared pageant stores.
Photo: James H. Wallace, The Courier-Journal

Students said they were eager to help. “This has been her dream for her whole life, and we get to be a part of it,” said senior Melanie McAfee, 17.

By the end of the week, the school hopes to raise $2,000 to give to the Hardins. Burger King donated 1,000 paper crowns that instantly sold out Friday at the school for a donation of 25 cents apiece or more. Students, staff and faculty wore them to the send-off decorated with such slogans as: “Monica is my Hero!” “Queen of the World,” and “You Go, Girl!”

Miss Kentucky Monica Hardin, 19, a graduate of Assumption High School, slapped hands with students there.
Photo: James H. Wallace, The Courier-Journal

Hardin’s mother, Mona, is blind and her father, William, works as a janitor. She also has two brothers, William Jr. and Aaron, and a sister, Beverly.

“The Hardins are still a part of our community, even though Monica has graduated,” said Cindy Mason, the school’s director of public relations.

Continental Airlines is providing round-trip tickets for her family to Atlantic City. “I heard. . . about what a wonderful job she had done growing up, combating all the things in her life and all the roadblocks, and how she seemed to get around them,” said Bill Newnum, Continental’s general manager in Louisville. “I just thought it was a wonderful story.”

Among the other contributors are Colonel Q Formal Wear, which is providing tuxedos, and Caesars Atlantic City, which is providing hotel accommodations and limousine service.

Tomorrow, Hardin will get more moral support from the 60 or so girls at Maryhurt residential treatment facility, 1015 Dorsey Lane, who will present her with a good luck card.

Hardin was a Girl Scout, and the Kentukiana (sic) Girl Scouts also donated $100 at a homecoming event in Jeffersontown after the Miss Kentucky pageant. The Girl Scouts stress four main goals: realizing individual potential, relating to others, developing meaningful values and contributing to society. “We feel she exemplifies our entire program,” said Sally LaBaugh, the Scouts’ director of communications.

From the Courier-Journal Neighborhoods, Wednesday, June 27, 2001
By Scheri E. Smith

Assumption grad as Miss America?
Miss Kentucky dreamed of this as little girl

When Monica Hardin was a little girl, she used to get dressed up in her room, parade around and pretend that her little head was adorned with the Miss America crown.

On Sept. 22, the lifelong Valley Station resident will have the chance to try for it.

Hardin, crowned the 66th Miss Kentucky on June 16, will represent the state at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

Monica Hardin received her crown as she won the Miss Kentucky pageant on June 16 in Lexington.
Photo: Associated Press

The 200 graduate of Assumption High School and student at the University of Louisville said remaining humble won’t be a challenge.

“My father raised us to be grounded,” she said. “My first purpose is to be a child of God.”

This was Hardin’s second attempt at the Kentucky crown. Last year she was Louisville’s candidate in the pageant. This year Hardin, 19, represented Jeffersontown. She said she will do her best at the Miss America competition.

Hardin’s pageant career began when she was 12 and she begged her parents, William and Mona, to let her compete.

For a struggling, one-income family, this request might have seemed out of the question. But in Hardin’s case, determination made up for what was lacking in her wallet.

“I went to work with my father and scrubbed toilets to make enough money to cover the cost,” she said. (Her dad works as a custodian.) “My father always told me you had to work for what you wanted.”

Verman Windburn,a family friend and mentor to Hardin, said his whole body is sore because he’s still jumping up and down.

“I feel like I’m Miss Kentucky,” said Windburn, of Shelby County. “I have been rejuvenated seeing a seed that has been planted that I helped cultivate to grow.”

Hardin’s work as a motivational speaker to area youths is what has made her different from the other contestants, Windburn said.

“A lot of people running in these pageants are phony,” he said. “She’s one of the only ones I’ve seen that’s got a genuine cause.”

William Hardin, Jr., Monica’s older brother, said he knew deep down in his heart that his sister would be a success. He came to the aid of his sister at the Kentucky pageant and did her hair for the competition.

Hardin's brother, William, applied a shining solution as he fixed her hair last week at the Hair and More salon.
He also did her hair for the Miss Kentucky competition.

Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr., The Courier-Journal

Hardin’s parents and her two brothers and sister want to be there when Monica takes the stage in Atlantic City. To help ensure their presence, William Jr., who lives in Jeffersontown and is a hair stylist at Hair & More salon on Linn Station Road, is donating 50 percent of his profits from now until September to a travel fund.

“We still have financial strains,” Monica Hardin said. “My brother is so sweet for doing this.”

For the length of her reign, Miss Kentucky will live in an apartment in Lexington, drive a 2002 Ford Explorer and talk on a cellular phone provided by Sprint. She will also receive $12,00 in scholarships.

She is taking a year off from college to fulfill her duties as Miss Kentucky.

All those barbecue sales in front of Sam’s Club on Preston Highway have paid off, she said, as well as all the times she had to wear the same suit because she couldn’t afford a new one.

Because her mother has been blind since childhood, Hardin has been responsible for her own hair and wardrobe.

“The first time my dad came at me with a curling iron, I figured I better learn how to do it myself as quickly as possible,” she laughed. “My mother may not do my hair, but she’s my secretary.

“She lets me know who calls and where I need to be.”

Hardin’s career as Miss Kentucky has already begun. One of her first appearances was at Billy Graham’s Louisville Crusade last weekend.

“I’m so lucky to have this opportunity,” she said.

From the Jeffersontown News-Leader, Volume 6, Number 7, July 2001:

Jeffersontown big winner at Miss Kentucky Scholarship Pageant

Jeffersontown scored a dramatic double win when the city came home with two young women selected to represent the State of Kentucky from the Miss Kentucky pageant held in Lexington last month. Miss Jeffersontown Monica Hardin won the Miss Kentucky title and Kaylin Renae Foreman won “Little Miss Kentucky” in a separate pageant held earlier. Such a double win is rare, and many believe it has never happened. The Miss Kentucky Pageant is the official state pageant where the winner competes for Miss America on national television this September.

The Miss America and Miss Kentucky pageants have come a long way from years ago when the pageants emphasized beauty and body structure. Today the pageants are the largest scholarship program for women in the world with over $31 million available to women in local, state and national levels. While the winners of these pageants receive large scholarship awards, the overwhelming majority of scholarships are given to women in a variety of categories. Today’s pageants strongly emphasize talent, interview and poise. While competition in swimsuit and evening gown still exist in the pageants, they are now given minor standing in the judging.

Jeffersontown is recognized today as the major contender in the Miss Kentucky and Miss America pageants which has become a growing source of community pride. Several Miss Jeffersontowns have won Miss Kentucky or placed in the finals in recent years and one contestant, Heather French, Miss Jeffersontown 1997, became Miss Kentucky in 2000 and chosen Miss America 2000 later that year. No other local pageant in the state can come close to the Miss Jeffersontown pageant record.

This is not a minor issue. The pageants not only mean important scholarships for women, but also bring advantageous promotion to the communities sponsoring them, according to Mayor Clay Foreman. “The city is a major sponsor of the Miss Jeffersontown pageant and it’s a good deal for us,” says Foreman. “Three of the past four winners of Miss Kentucky were Miss Jeffersontown. It’s put Jeffersontown on the map bringing a lot of attention to our city.” Foreman says the attention is very beneficial when the city competes for businesses and corporations to locate here. “The city at the same time is supporting education and developing leadership skills for women. It’s a win-win situation for Jeffersontown.”

Previous Winners

This picture, taken last year, emphasizes the influence of the Miss Jeffersontown pageant. Pictured, (left to right) - Heather French, Miss America 2000, who was Miss Jeffersontown in 1997; Whitney Boyles, Miss Jeffersontown 1998, who placed in the top ten in Miss Kentucky Pageant in 1998; (and was Miss Kentucky 2000 - webmaster) Shanna Moore, 1999 Miss Jeffersontown and 2000 Miss Kentucky; (Miss Kentucky 1999 - webmaster) Ginger Orr, Miss Jeffersontown 2000 who also placed in top ten in Miss Kentucky pageant. Several other young women have become Miss Kentucky after being selected as Miss Jeffersontown.

Foreman is also the father of five year old “Little Miss Kentucky” Kaylin Foreman. Foreman admits he and his wife, Chris, are very proud Kaylin won but keep it in perspective. “Kaylin decided on her own to enter the Little Miss Jeffersontown pageant last year. It was something she very much wanted to do,” said Foreman. “We decided not to go overboard on it and just make it a fun, family activity. Kaylin competed in both the “Little Miss Jeffersontown” and “Little Miss Kentucky” pageants with no make-up and her dresses were made by her grandmother.” Kaylin competed in competitions in poise, interview, posture and talent, where she recited the 23rd Psalm from memory.

Monica & Kaylin

Jeffersontown was the big winner at the Miss Kentucky pageant when Kaylin Renee Foreman was selected Little Miss Kentucky and Monica Hardin won Miss Kentucky in the state pageant held last month in Lexington. Both were selected as representatives of Jeffersontown in the local pageant held last year.

Miss Jeffersontown, Monica Hardin, now Miss Kentucky, is considered a top contender for the Miss America title, according to Debbie Robbins, producer and Scholarship Coordinator for the Miss Jeffersontown pageant. “I’m not saying that out of community pride,” says Robbins. “Monica is one of the most talented and intelligent people I have ever met. She makes a fantastic impression upon people whenever they meet her.”

Hardin is a 19 year old native of Louisville and a student at the University of Louisville pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in political science and communications. She is one of ten Mitch McConnell Scholars at the university, a Governor Scholar recipient as well as a Harlan Scholar. Hardin is also the recipient of the Martin Luther King Leadership Award and the NAACP Outstanding Community Service Award among other honors.

Hardin is also very involved in our community. She opened the Saturday night NeXt Generation concert at the Billy Graham Crusade at Papa John’s Stadium last month and hosts a radio talk show “Posted Up” on Wednesday evenings on WLOU. Hardin uses the radio show to deal with lives and issues of youth in the community. The show is part of work involving “The National Youth Network” a cooperative partnership among the office of Juvenile Justice, the National Crime Prevention Council and 20 youth serving organizations across the country.

Robbins says the pageants are not fluff, but serious business and an important way to empower women to further themselves. “We work with the winner of Miss Jeffersontown all year. We teach her skills in interview and bring in people from all areas of business and government to do tough interviews with her. Monica’s done 20 interviews and is very poised and confidant [sic]. We help her in selecting her wardrobe ensemble and work on her talent competition. We emphasize this is a community service position and there are important responsibilities. She is a role model and becomes one of the most admired and respected women in the state.”

Monica learned quickly how important her role was soon after winning the Miss Jeffersontown title. She comes from a family which struggles to meet their financial needs for daily living and was taken aback by a question from a little girl. “I was speaking to a group of inner city kids when this little girl asked me, ‘Are you rich?’” says Hardin. “I realized for the first time people were really watching me. This little girl thought just because I was wearing a crown on my head that I was rich! You see, my mom is blind and my dad works hard every day as a janitor and we don’t have much money. But my parents have always told me if I have faith in God and work to get an education, I can overcome ANY obstacle in life. So no, I am not rich with money, but I am very rich indeed.”

“Monica has been able to acquire most of the things she needs to compete by donations and sponsors,” says Robbins. “People become so impressed after they meet Monica, they want to support her. It’s really quite an amazing story.”

Hardin will now move to Lexington, taking time off from school, to prepare for the Miss America pageant on September 22. This will be the focus of all her attention. If Monica wins, Jeffersontown will again be able to claim they helped a young woman achieve major fame and status. If she does not win, Monica plans to return and work as the State Ambassador for the Department of Agriculture’s program for youth called “No Ifs, Ands or Butts,” an anti-smoking campaign. The state wants to use Monica’s communication skills and her status as Miss Kentucky to speak to students all across the state about the hazards of smoking.

“No matter what happens personally for Monica, she will make sure all those around her are winners,” says Robbins.


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