In the two weeks since Dakota Richmond was crowned the 2018 Miss Marigold, she has been busy with her role as Miss Marigold but also as a college student.
Richmond recently started her sophomore year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is majoring in psychology. That alone for a 19-year-old can be a lot of work. However, as this year’s queen, she has certain goals for herself with the title. On Thursday, Sept. 6, she came back to Pekin to be a judge at Pekin’s Top Dog competition. Friday, Sept. 7 was packed with visits to local schools. Richmond went to Jefferson Primary School, Washington Intermediate School, Wilson Intermediate School and L.E. Starke Primary School. At each school, she had a general meet and greet and answered students’ questions. She also promoted the Marigold Festival. At the primary schools she read books to the students.
“I told the teachers what topics I felt I wanted to cover and what I felt comfortable reading ahead of time,” Richmond said. “My platform was mental health awareness. I wanted to talk about bullying and basic mental health information with them.”
Then when she visited with students in grades fourth through sixth, she wanted to address them on their level to have an age appropriate dialogue about mental health.
“I really want to push resources for them,” she said. “I want them to know they don’t have to suffer in silence. There’s power in speaking up.”
Richmond said she is eager to tell her story to students about her journey to becoming Miss Marigold.
“I want them to know it is very valuable to be someone who cares,” she said. “It is easy to focus on yourself, but when you focus on others, you get a lot more out of life.”
Visits to classrooms from Miss Marigold started in 2013 when Marj Oesch invited Miss Marigold Brittany Sherwood to her second grade classroom at L.E. Starke Primary School, according to Miss Marigold Pageant chairperson Shannon Sandoval.
“We think that’s where it started, and we’ve just been fortunate that it’s continued since then,” said Sandoval. “This year is really big. She has by far the most visits scheduled (to schools). I know she is excited to be able to connect with kids and promote the festival. It’s great when our queens are able to really engage with the community and this is a great example.”
Richmond also had a meeting with Pekin Community High School Principal Amy Hubner on Friday. There were a number of ideas she shared with Hubner.
“I have a whole list of things to talk about at the high school,” Richmond said. “I’ve got National Alliance on Mental Illness information I’d like to pass along. With the population of Pekin who is under the poverty line, there is a real need for certain resources. I’d like to leave a ‘take what you need’ box in the bathrooms at the high school, and that way kids can have access to toiletry items without having to feel humiliated and ask. I’d like to have artwork on the walls in the bathrooms to remind them that they matter and that they make a difference.”
Her ideas did not go unheard.
After they met, Hubner said, “She presented a few potential ideas for us to incorporate for students at PCHS, and we are open to discussing the ideas further.”