by Danielle Wagner
CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) Emily Thompson began playing the violin when she was four years old. Now, she's 23 and the violin will be her talent when she competes for Miss Iowa - America later this year.
Thompson is Miss Northeast Iowa, and she's the first to admit she never thought she'd wear a crown on her head.
"I thought beauty queens are in it because they're a little conceited in themselves. They want the fame and glory, but I've found it's so much more than that. So many of these girls are passionate about what they do," said Emily Thompson.
She feels one of her responsibilities as Miss Northeast Iowa is breaking down stereotypes of beauty queens.
"It's really down to earth girls who are in it for the scholarship money. Very intelligent, very talented. Miss Iowa 2009 is now in med school and she went to Harvard for undergrad," said Thompson.
Thompson spends a lot of time speaking to students, promoting her platform: Dare to Dream Differentiate.
This day she's at Wilson Middle School in Cedar Rapids.
"Encouraging kids to pursue nontraditional careers. Just branching out, breaking that status quo and pushing yourself to do something people normally wouldn't expect from you," she said.
Thompson knows first hand about nontraditional careers. After going to Purdue University, she moved to Cedar Rapids to be a test equipment engineer for government systems at Rockwell Collins. She's the only female on her team of about 20 people.
"The first step is believing in yourself and knowing that first step in believing in yourself is the hardest part, but once you have that belief it makes your dreams easier because you owe it to selves and dreams to follow through with what they want to do," said Emily Thompson.
Thompson hopes she can encourage these students to not only make goals, but to meet and exceed those goals.
She stresses the importance of education, which she said is a huge focus of the Miss America organization.
"This past year alone Miss America gave out $45 million in scholarships. So one of the largest organizations for scholarships for women," said Thompson.
Thompson is hoping to get more of that scholarship money when she competes in the Miss Iowa - America contest.
Even though she's originally from a Chicago suburb, Thompson said she's a Midwest girl at heart and would be happy to represent the state of Iowa.
"I joke and say I may be a Boilermaker, but I love living in Hawkeye nation. I'm truly an Iowa girl now," said Thompson.
Emily Thompson competes in the Miss Iowa - America contest on June 11th in Davenport. About 20 young women will compete for the title.
Reporter: Danielle Wagner