ROUND LAKE – Crowned Junior Miss Earth USA 2023, 12-year-old Kailee Albeck of Round Lake became the first contestant from Illinois to capture the title.
The win brought tears of joy to the seventh grader at Park Campus who has big aspirations to compete in future pageants and become an elementary school teacher.
“I’ve been working so hard the past few years,” she said. “I definitely had a lot of emotions going through me. ... Hard work pays off.”
Eyeing future titles such as Miss Earth USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe, Kailee for now is focused on school and her friends.
She’d also appreciate your used and unwanted crayons.
Through her platform Crayons for Kids, Kailee collects old crayons and recycles them for children’s hospitals and schools throughout the Chicago area.
She created the platform out of a love for drawing and painting and a passion for environmental causes.
“We were figuring out a platform and I thought, ‘What is something I love to do?’ It’s coloring,” she said. “We found out our landfills were filled with crayons and waste. We decided to do Crayons for Kids.”
To date, Kailee has collected more than 70 pounds of crayons by hosting drop-off events throughout the area, partnering with area nonprofits and taking part in community events. Anyone interested in donating can email Kailee through her mother, Katie Albeck, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Environmental causes always have been a passion for the Albeck family, Katie Albeck said. That, combined with a love of pageantry, pointed Kailee in the direction of the Miss Earth Organization.
“We definitely recycle as much as we can, turn off the water when we can, and reduce our carbon footprint by walking and biking where we can,” Katie Albeck said.
Along with crowning a Miss Earth USA, who will go on to compete in Vietnam for the international title, the pageant includes multiple age divisions of Teen (13 to 19), Junior, Little and Tiny Miss Earth USA. The Junior Ambassador contestants are between the ages of 5 to 14.
Through the pageant experience, they’re encouraged to get involved with their communities, gain modeling experience, enhance public speaking skills and create relationships with female mentors.
Known as “Beauties for a Cause,” Miss Earth has promoted the empowerment of women through “community leadership, eco-tourism and environmental education” since 2001.
Kailee held the title of Little Miss Illinois Earth USA the past two years before being crowned Junior Miss Illinois Earth USA this past summer. She went on to compete Jan. 1-8 in Orlando, Florida, for the Junior Miss Earth USA title. Contestants ranged in age from 12 to 14.
Along with an official crown and sash, Kailee won scholarship money to contribute to Crayons for Kids. Contestants are judged on their environmental service activity, as well as their speaking skills and modeling ability.
“Actually, when we started pageants, I was shy. I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Kailee said. “Since competing, I’ve opened up my book and been talking to more people. … Pageants have helped me in school with presenting projects. I had to do a presentation in school and my teacher said I was phenomenal at the speaking.”