By LEANA DICKERSON
For the Keizertimes
Ten years ago, Amy Kerr (now McVey) of Keizer became the one and only 2002 America’s Junior Miss, after first being named the winner in Keizer and at the statewide competition. She’s the only Oregonian to win the title.
Back in early 2001 McVey began with the Junior Miss Program at McNary High School with a few of her friends, but she didn’t think it’d lead her to the national title. She put in hours of hard work and dedication, and in the end won it all. As her talent, McVey sang “Quando Me´n Vo´” from Puccini’s “La Bohème,” and said that her success was a result of “a combination of hard work, preparation, and a lot of luck.”
Reflecting on the announcement of the winner, McVey said that she felt “the sense of grateful disbelief. Thousands of talented young women from across the country compete in the program every year… what are the odds that Amy from Keizer, Oregon would win? I remember looking down at my parents sitting in the front row beaming up at me. It was a moment I’ll always cherish.”
Recently, while helping with rehearsals for the 2012 Oregon Distinguished Young Women program, McVey was surprised by a current contestant: “This year’s current Oregon DYW ran up to me when I entered the room and immediately started crying, laughing through her happy tears telling me that she had wanted to meet me ever since she was a young girl. It was a humbling experience, and a reminder of another amazing component of the program: the chance to be a role model to younger girls.”
It seems McVey holds a humble view of her position as America’s 2002 winner, and it also seems that the last 10 years have shown her what an effect the program has had on her life.
“What an honor and challenge it is for young women in high school,” she said. “It is definitely something that has made me a better person through the years, as I both looked up to title holders before me and strove to be a role model to those who looked up to me when I won the program”.
After winning America’s Junior Miss, McVey oddly wasn’t recognized much for her fame here in Oregon, but while traveling down south where the program was much better known, Amy Kerr was a recognizable name.
“The biggest thing I took away from my experience with the Junior Miss program is my public speaking abilities,” McVey said. “I had to learn quickly how to communicate effectively and clearly on the spot, and it’s a skill that has benefited me countless times throughout my life since then.”
With her scholarship from America’s Junior Miss, as well as an academic scholarship she received, McVey attended Willamette University and graduated cum laude with a degree in rhetoric and media studies. After graduating, McVey moved to Portland to work with a public relations firm. A few years later, she returned to the Keizer area to be the marketing director for Holiday Retirement.
McVey was married in 2011 to Erich McVey, who she met in 2008 when he was hired for his first photo shoot with the company she worked with at the time.
Most recently, McVey has transitioned into a position working with her husband and his company, McVey Photography as well as helping with her in-laws’ business, Affordable Framing. She now resides in Salem with Erich and her two cats: Rufus and Penny. In her free time, McVey enjoys an array of outdoors sports with her husband, and hosting summer barbeques with plenty of local friends and family.
McVey truly believes in the program and the difference it can make in the lives of young women; “The wonderful thing about this program is that there is no exact kind of young woman who is better prepared to win than another. Everyone has a chance, and any high school girls contemplating participating in the program in the future absolutely should. You never know what may happen!” says McVey to current hopefuls. “It’s a program that empowers young women to believe in themselves, discover talents and strengths they never knew they had, and gives all contestants – not just the winner- self confidence and life skills that will carry them through critical high school and college years to come.”
The program was renamed as the Distinguished Young Women competition. Nationwide girls earn more than $100 million per year in scholarships from the program.