Next month, is hitting one of the most famous stages in the country. We can all thank Clark Janell Davis, Miss Kentucky. Raising dyslexia awareness is her platform at this year’s Miss America Pageant.
Davis won’t just be showcasing her brains and beauty at the pageant. She’s on a mission to change the lives of kids with dyslexia. Davis has dyslexia, and she knows that many kids aren’t identified early enough or don’t get the classroom support they need.
“I realized my emphasis should be on helping people with dyslexia,” Davis says. “If I win, I will travel the U.S. raising awareness and understanding about dyslexia and diversity and telling kids it’s OK to be yourself.”
Davis, who turned 18 on August 9, says she was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade. She was falling behind her classmates in reading, writing and spelling. “Every time I had to read, it was very mentally exhausting,” she recalls. “It was so hard. It made my whole body feel tired.” So she started receiving services.
But then Davis reached high school. There, she was told her grades were too strong and her IQ too high for her to receive special education services. And when she asked the school board for extra time on the ACT, her request was denied, she says.
“I realize that I should not have been denied special education services,” Davis says. “To deny services to a person who clearly has a learning difference is just wrong.”
Despite these challenges, Davis worked even harder. Last year, she graduated from Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky, with a 3.9 GPA. She’s now a freshman at the University of Kentucky, majoring in vocal music.
And she’s speaking out about her experience every chance she gets during her yearlong reign as Miss Kentucky. One of her first stops in the state was a summer program for kids with dyslexia at Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky. She encouraged the kids to aim high and to be themselves.
Whether or not she becomes Miss America, Davis is sure to make a difference. After all, winning a beauty pageant isn’t her biggest dream—it’s becoming president of the United States. “I’m not sure how God is going to work that out, but I’m confident he will,” she says.
ABC will air the 95th anniversary celebration of the Miss America Pageant on September 13.
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Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for