“This Little Light of Mine” is the campaign of 2016’s Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen, Nicole Jia.

The competition took place on June 10 in Tulsa at Oral Robert University.

As an Oklahoma City native and a rising senior at Casady School in Oklahoma City, Jia is proud to represent her state. Jia explained that the Miss Oklahoma organization stresses community service and volunteerism.

What’s more, this is only the crowned teen’s second year to compete in the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen pageant.

“I was a latecomer,” said Jia. “It was really hard at first, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it again this year, but with a lot of encouragement from friends and family, I decided to participate.”

The Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen organization is part of the larger Miss America

Outstanding Teen organization. The contestants are evaluated on the following elements: an eight-minute private interview (25 percent), scholastic achievement (10 percent), evening wear with an on-stage question (20 percent), lifestyle and fitness (10 percent) and lastly, the talent portion (35 percent). Each contestant is encouraged to reach their educational goals. The pageant combines intelligence and talent along with fitness and societal awareness—it is a celebration of the well-rounded young woman.

“A lot of people don’t know what all the pageant is about,” Jia laughed. “Even my brother—last year, he only came to the closing night and he didn’t know much about it. But this year, he spent the whole week with me and I think it really changed his views.”

Indeed, Jia’s brother, Nathan Jia, had a complete turnaround of opinion: “A year ago, I had the incredible misconception that pageants were purely superficial. I didn’t see the behind-the-scenes world or truly understand the structure,” he said.

However, this year he played a more integral role in Jia’s preparations: helping her prepare for the interview, training in the gym and keeping up with current events.

“I have seen first hand not only the exponential personal growth in Nicole, but also the caliber of individuals that she is competing against,” Nathan said. “Most people see the crown, but few people get to see the tremendous sacrifices that she has made every single day for the past year and continues to make as she prepares for Miss America.”

“My heart truly swells when I think about the transformation my sister has undergone and also the mental strength she has obtained through this process. She is incredible,” Nathan stated proudly. 

Jia expressed a similar gratitude to the organization when talking about her self-confidence. She went on to say that she wants to help other girls learn and understand that comparing themselves to others will get them nowhere.

“I want to help girls know that they are enough and to help them believe that they can do things,” she said. “I want to show them that they can be impactful.”

Jia takes on her position as a role model of today and a future leader of tomorrow very seriously. “My platform is called ‘This Little Light of Mine’,” she explained. “Because I believe that everyone has a light that they can shine positivity on others.”

Jia is kind, innovative and driven—a perfect representation of the Oklahoma spirit.

“I want to be very visible in my year as Outstanding Teen,” Jia expressed. “The Miss Oklahoma has a lot of appearances and events set up for her, whereas it’s harder for the Miss Oklahoma Teen because of school—it’s just kind of what you can do on your own.”

So how does she plan to be visible? By spreading kindness and positivity through public appearances, her YouTube channel (The Oklahoma Standard), her Facebook page (This Little Light of Mine) and volunteering.

“The Oklahoma Standard is the kindness that came after the Oklahoma City bombing. So, for my channel, I’m interviewing various people in Oklahoma City to see what the Oklahoma standard means to them,” she explained. “On my Facebook page, I’m posting things like inspirational quotes and kindness challenges to help spread positivity.”

Clearly, Jia understands the power of inspiration and knows that sometimes it takes confidence and bravery to be kind. This last year, she worked at her school to create a “Kindnessgrams” program, where kids could send encouraging notes to others with lollipops attached.

“At first people were confused, but after I explained it and helped it along it really took off, and I’m hoping it will go over really well this year,” she said.

Additionally, she is part of Casady’s Youth Action in the Community organization, which holds diaper drives, canned food drives. Last year she completed the “Warm Project” where a team in her community made blankets for and donated books to students at Positive Tomorrows (Oklahoma City’s school for homeless children).

She is hoping to do all she can for her community this coming year.

“I want to be involved at the Food Bank, bring Rachel’s Challenge to my school and go to as many schools as I can to read and talk to the kids about being a light.”

Jia sets an example for her community, and from her day-to-day actions to her on-stage actions, she spreads her “Oklahoma Standard” of unconditional kindness.

Nicole Jia is a light in her community, and soon will be a light in her nation. She will compete in the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant Aug. 2-6. You can follow her journey on the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen Facebook page or on Instagram at @maoteenok.