Sydney Friar, 2011 Miss Missouri, spoke of reconnecting with family.
"Family doesn't necessarily mean your blood ties," Friar said. "It is your community, your peers and your teachers.
Friar said throughout her years pursuing the Miss Missouri crown, she had been discouraged many times.
"But these people supported me," she said. "I worked at building those positive relationships."
A smile matters
Friar described how one person can unknowingly impact the life of another individual with something as small as a smile.
"When I was in high school, a girl asked if she could talk to me for a few minutes," Friar said. The girl told Friar how she had recently moved to the school and how people had not been very welcoming.
"She told me that I smiled at her every day," Friar said. "She told me that is what changed her high school career; she felt acknowledged. Just a smile changed the course of someone's high school career."
Friar went on to say that her family and friends provided a network of support that helped her keep from making mistakes.
"They see the truth in others that you can't see," Friar said. She described her father not liking a boy she took home from college.
"After five minutes, my father turned away and I thought 'This isn't going well,'" Friar said. "He saw that this was not the guy I deserved. He saw what was best for me."
Friar said that it's not only blood ties that makes a person a family member.
"These people are the ones who are most honest with you," she said. "Even when you don't want to hear it. They care for you and keep yourself from being hurt and failure."
Friar went on to say one of the first assignments she received after being crowned Miss Missouri was a speaking engagement at a women's prison.
"I spoke to 250 inmates," Friar said. "My message to them was one of encouragement and elimination of barriers. When they spoke to me, every one of them said, 'It all starts with family.' If they had been able to talk to their parents about the pressures they were under or if their families had just taken time to ask them questions, each one said she would never have ended up in prison.
"One woman said she was the oldest and her siblings looked up to her," Friar continued. "Not only is she in jail, but they are too. She said she wished she had paid more attention to her family and the influence she had on her siblings."
Friar encouraged students to build healthy relationships and to serve as encourager and cheerleaders for others as well.
"You have the opportunity to surround yourself with positive relationships," she said. "They will help keep you from making stupid decisions so you don't fail. They will help you fulfill your dreams and do what you love."
Local industry has impact
Students also heard from Chris Miltenberger, director of operations for Playpower North American Operation in Monett. The company makes a variety of playground equipment for schools, restaurants, resorts and hotels.
Miltenberger said students many had the opportunity to attend college or vocational school, but those who were choosing not to seek further education had opportunities as well.
"There area lot of opportunities for those not seeking higher education," Miltenberger said. "There is a huge vacuum in skilled trades.
"Welding is a huge skill set for us," Miltenberger continued. "If you want to be a welder, you could go on the road and earn about $80,000 a year."
Miltenberger went on to describe the various options available at Playpower.
"Industry has changed a lot," he said. "We are now using equipment with the same interface as iPhones being implemented into factories in the United States. We have plasma cutting and laser cutting technologically advanced equipment. We have people with engineering backgrounds to keep the equipment maintained and running. We have machines to bend metal to exact specifications, taking the human element out of the process.
"If you are looking at a 10 to 15 year career outlook, there are options in industry that are generalized skills, can be transferred anywhere and are valuable in the market," Miltenberger said. "You can make $90,000 a year as a plumber. Someone a year out of college won't be making that."
Miltenberger went on to describe many processes in the local plant that combines, science, technology and chemistry that goes into the company's finished product.
"We use a rotational molding system," Miltenberger said. "It is one of the largest in the United States and in the world."
"We use 90 million pounds of raw materials a year at the Monett plant," he said. "Materials from all over the world. And our products are shipped back out all over the world.
Miltenberger told students that he recently had lunch with a customer from Morocco.
"A lot of culture comes into this area from other parts of the world," Miltenberger said. "We are always looking for new ideas, new equipment, marketing and product design.
"A lot of positive things come from Monett," he continued. "The industry has changed a lot. You can have a large part of controlling your own destiny. The challenge is, regardless of whether you want to pursue and education or go to work, technology is the driving force in this world economy. It brings about a lot of opportunity."
Other speakers for the event included Bill Bond, who discussed safe schools, and Dr. Anson Elliot, who spoke of the future food supply.
Contemporary Issues Awareness Day is sponsored by the Monett Kiweanis and Key Clubs.