By Robert Williams
For some winners of Miss Frazee Teen, the following year can be an introduction to community service, but this year’s winner Sophia Strand takes the crown with multiple platforms she has already created and brings years of fundraising experience to her title.
Strand started raising funds to fight cancer in first grade when her teacher Brandi Trapp was diagnosed with breast cancer a few days before school started.
Strand is involved with the American Cancer Society and has raised money with her Cupcakes for Cancer program each summer during the Frazee city-wide garage sales.
She pitched the idea for Hornet Hoops and Hope to activities director Nick Courneya and with the help of both basketball teams raised nearly $3,000 per year.
In total, she’s raised over $50,000, and much of those funds are donated to support the Stand by Me Foundation, a local charity created by the Helmers family of Frazee in 2019 that provides financial aid through grants to parent(s)/guardian(s) who need to leave their employment, which results in lost wages; to provide in-hospital support to their child during long hospital admissions due to chemotherapy or medical procedures related to cancer.
“That’s how I saw it; it’s a great way to promote what I already do and find more excuses to go out into the community and meet with kids and do some different things,” Strand said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity for me to do it and I think it’s going to be a good fit, especially with Hailey Selly being my sister queen.”
The “sister” is not literal in this case, but very close to it.
“We’re really close in age and her mom was my daycare person,” said Strand. “Hailey and her brother were the first kids I met that were similar to my age. I’ve basically grown up with them and they’ve always called me and my mom family. It’s just a good way to get closer to her before she leaves.”
Strand and Selly have started to plan out their year, but have only had the crowns for a week.
“We have ideas of stuff that we want to do in October and November,” said Strand. “It’ll give us a couple months to ease into it and then hit the gas pedal.”
Both girls acknowledged the work of their predecessors and noted they have big shoes to fill.
“We definitely do,” Strand said. “Marcella and Katie did a lot of great work and started some great things like the back-to-school drive. It’s a great thing for the school and community.”
While Miss Frazee Teen seems like a perfect fit for Strand, part of it is somewhat askew from her personality and fashion choices.
“People definitely had to talk me into it,” said Strand.
Pageant director Heather Perrine had been coaxing Strand to run the past two years.
A family trip made last year impossible, but this year became a reality in the same way it did for Selly. It took some inspiring words from outgoing Miss Frazee Marcella George.
“Marcella had to convince me this year, because I’ve never been a let’s put on a crown and makeup person,” said Strand. “I’ve always been just shorts and T-shirt, let’s go to the farm. It definitely took some convincing.“
There was also a time management issue after Strand earned a spot on the Junior Team USA volleyball team and competed at an international volleyball tournament in the Dominican Republic leading up to the pageant.
She completed a year-long process to raise $4,500 for the trip and Strand was conscientious of not going to many of the businesses she has used in the past for her fundraising efforts.
She raised the money and played on a team that placed third overall out of a field of 60 teams.
“That was a great time and there was so much camaraderie between me and my teammates, even though we had just met each other,” she said. “It was so much fun and really special.”
Strand missed pre-pageant requirements and activities, mock interviews and had to have a special session with George to learn the opening dance routine.
“It was nerve-wracking and for me it was a little stressful because I had to write all of my essays in a matter of three days before I left for the Dominican Republic and I was there for a week and back for four days and then it was pageant time,” she said. “It was so much fun when it came time for it.”
Hitting deadlines, being heavily involved in her community and creating her own platforms since childhood have helped shape Sophia into a very efficient and resourceful person.
“That’s the one thing that’s been good about being so busy, active and involved, it’s forced me to have good time management,” she said. “The only thing I procrastinate on is cleaning my room.”
As a junior this year, Strand plans to add the fall musical to her lengthy list of activities that include volleyball, basketball, band, FFA, the MATCH program, knowledge bowl and national honor society.