The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

February 19, 2014

Taking up residency

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — They may not currently live in Hunt County, but the two new titleholders say they want to spend as much time in the county where they will be considered residents.

Miss Hunt County 2014 Sterling Bishop and Miss Hunt County’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Larissa Fenstermaker want to be involved in the communities through the platforms they will promote during their year of service. Bishop and Fenstermaker received their titles Feb. 8 at the conclusion of the annual scholarship pageant on the Commerce High School campus.

Bishop says she wants to open more eyes in the community to child abuse as hers were six years ago when — as a junior in high school — her best friend confided about being abused. The friend came to live with Bishop and her parents.

“Seeing first-hand how abuse could affect someone that I was close to was upsetting as well as eye-opening in regards to the prevalence of child abuse,” said Bishop, now 22. “Since then, I have considered it a responsibility to fight against child abuse.”

That responsibility led to Bishop’s platform — “Let Your Dreams Give You Wings” — an effort to break the cycle of child abuse by encouraging children “to utilize their courage and confidence to speak out against their abuser, break free from their past and follow their dreams to become whatever it is that they want to become as opposed to what they are predisposed to becoming,” she said.

In her hometown of Burleson, Bishop has partnered with the Children’s Advocacy Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates as well as other organizations. She wants to continue that relationship with those organizations in Hunt County.

“Having a title enables me to do so much more,” said Bishop, a junior at Texas Christian University majoring in biology. “It does provide me with a larger voice and hopefully get my message across to a larger audience.”

Fenstermaker, 17, found the basis for her platform — “Friends of Friday” —  near her home.  “Friday” is a Maltese mix that Fenstermaker and her younger sister found roaming in the Amarillo neighborhood that appeared to have been abandoned. The sisters were told by their parents if they could catch the dog, they could keep it. The dog — with hair so matted it could not lift its tail — was caught on a Friday and taken to a local veterinarian and nursed back to health.

“Friday’s” rescue sparked Fenstermaker’s interest in not only helping dogs, but other animals that have been abandoned and/or abused. While her platform targets younger students, she said it can be applied to adults as well.

“My goal is to organize and implement a plan to increase awareness for caring for ‘Man’s Best Friend’ by helping my peers to see the value of pets and how to properly care for them,” said Fenstermaker, a homeschooled junior who is also taking courses at Amarillo College. “I believe raising awareness will not only benefit our pets, but our youth and our community.”

Both Bishop and Fenstermaker also said they needed some encouragement to compete in the pageant. While Fenstermaker said her encouragement came from friends, Bishop added her drive was fueled from a different source.

A week before the Hunt County pageant, Bishop competed at another Miss Texas preliminary pageant in White Settlement, where she placed first runner-up. While Bishop wanted to return to Miss Texas — having competed for the state pageant in 2013 and placed 20th overall —  she also had doubts about her commitment.

“Would I have enough time to dedicate to all the areas I find important,” she said. “I looked to God to lead me in the right direction. I was trying to figure out what to do next and prayer led me to competing for Miss Hunt County.”

Bishop also said she aware of the Hunt County pageant’s good reputation in the state and a longtime desire to work with the county organization’s directors.

For Fenstermaker, the push in the right directions came from her talent coach — and a family friend — who encouraged her to make the eight-hour trip to compete at Hunt County. It did not take much convincing as she also wanted to compete for the first time at the state pageant; having been named first runner-up in the Miss Amarillo pageant.

Bishop was selected as the new Miss titleholder from a field of six contestants. Prior to receiving the crown, Bishop also received the preliminary talent and interview awards, First runner-up Devlin Kerns of Dallas also received the preliminary fitness award. Second runner-up was Patricia Cannon of Dallas.

Fesnstermaker was chosen  as the new Teen titleholder over two other contestants. She was the preliminary fitness winner while Katy Perry of Carrollton received the preliminary talent and interview awards.

The new titleholders will represent the county at their respective state pageants this July in Richardson.