Arkansas City native Hannah Klaassen was named Miss Kansas last weekend, following a pageant week event that was held in Pratt.

“Absolutely shocked and overwhelmed, and excited and so grateful,” Klaassen said of being crowned Miss Kansas.

The daughter of Dr. Paul and Lisa Klaassen, Hannah entered the pageant with a platform of supporting mental health.

“I have had two very close friends and a grandmother who have struggled with different mental illnesses over the past few years, and I’ve been able to see how this affects their daily (lives) in many different ways,” she said.

“I want to support those who struggle with a mental illness and encourage them to get the help they need, while also helping them know that they are so much more than an illness — they are worthy of love and acceptance and respect, just like every other human being, and their mental health should not diminish their quality of life.”

Future education plans

Klaassen just finished her sophomore year at Tabor College in Hillsboro, where she is pursuing a major in psychology and a minor in music.

“I’ve been looking a lot into dance and movement therapy, so that would be my dream job,” she said in an interview June 11.

“My goals right now are to obtain a master’s degree in psychology, either dance/movement therapy (DMT) or counseling, and then possibly go for my doctorate.”

DMT is a therapy that uses movement and dance to support several different functions of the body.

“Programs range from traditional dances like ballroom to more subtle forms of movement, like yoga and stretching, to calm the body,” according to Psychology Today.

Pageant beginnings

It has been a long road to the Miss Kansas title for Klaassen.

“I got involved in the Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen organization when I was 16, thanks to Kristen Boxman, and after deciding I wanted to do more to change/serve my community and the world, the Miss Kansas organization was my first choice to give me the platform to do so,” she said.

From there, Klaassen was crowned Miss South Central Kansas earlier this year. It was that competition that led her to last week’s festivities.

“I’m so passionate about mental health and wellness, and through Miss Kansas, I can promote this platform, as well the Miss America platform of Children’s Miracle Network hospitals,” she said.

“I knew I could also earn amazing scholarships and have the opportunity to be a positive role model for children everywhere. These things all really drew me to the organization.”

Miss Kansas duties

Although it is a great honor, being named Miss Kansas is just the first step in Klaassen’s next journey toward competing at the national level.

“Earning the title of Miss Kansas means I now have a full-time job,” she said.

“My life was completely changed in the moment I was crowned, and that was both humbling and thrilling. My first big event will be competing in Miss America in September. After that, I begin to make appearances daily.”

Those appearances will take place at schools, meetings, clubs, hospitals, parades and many more venues.

Last year, Miss Kansas 2017 made nearly 600 such appearances.

“I will promote my platform, The Mind Matters, as well the Miss America Organization and their platform while traveling around Kansas,” Klaassen said.

“I’m so excited to meet with the organization’s sponsors and to gain more partnerships, as well. I also get to attend each local pageant this fall/winter and support the new titleholders throughout the next year as they prepare for Miss Kansas 2019.”

Promoting her platform

Klaassen’s focus on mental health means that she is keeping perspective on how to balance her new duties with a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s so incredibly important to take care of your mind and emotions, just like you take care of your body,” she said.

“Things like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder do not define a person, and I believe that one day, the stigma surrounding these illnesses will be squashed.”

As a result of her being crowned Miss Kansas, Klaassen will have the ability to reach many people with the platform she will take with her to the Miss America pageant.

“I will be speaking to different schools about my platform and hopefully partnering with different mental health organizations throughout the year,” she said.

Klaassen family support

Klaassen credited her family with providing her with support during this entire process.

“My family includes my mom and dad, older sister Heidi, and younger brother Pierce,” she said.

“They have been so supportive over the past year, and even though Heidi is getting married in July, she has been so wonderful in loving and supporting me through Miss Kansas while also planning her wedding.

“My siblings really helped me prepare for both my local and the state pageant through encouraging me to be healthy, and helping me relax by playing games and watching movies with me. I could not have gotten where I am without Mom and Dad this year.”

With her family’s support, Klaassen was able to create memories she will cherish for the rest of her life.

“Being in the parade on (June 8) and seeing the town of Pratt come together to celebrate Miss Kansas Week was one of my favorite events of the week,” she said.

“I loved getting to ride in a Mustang while getting to know the driver of my car and being in the warm sun waving at everyone. I couldn’t stop smiling.”