Introducing : Kara McCullough. We Chat with Miss USA!!
Before gracing the stage and walking into destiny as 2017 Miss USA, Kara McCullough was not only Miss DC and Miss South Carolina State University. No, she was always an individual that wanted to help and inspire others. Her platform for the 2012-2013 term as Miss SC State was “keep your coins, inspire for change.” Her mother, inspired her to be greater, and care for others, which is evident with her work with the youth.
But before I get ahead of myself, allow me the opportunity to share with you our interview, before her historic title win as Miss USA!
How are you today?
I am extremely well and even better because you said my name correctly! So thank you so much!
You’re welcome! I have a cousin that has that name, so I’m one up!
I know you’re busy and everything is a whirlwind. Recent grad of SC State University. I know you get the chance to go back!
I did recently! I went to Homecoming this past October, I had an amazing time! It made me remember being at an HBCU, just how warm and welcoming the environment is, and it was such a fun experience. I am so thankful that I got to attend South Carolina State University.
Big ups to South Carolina State University for producing such a wonderful, talented individual such as yourself!
Thank you! I want to put another plug in there, I was the 75th Miss South Carolina State University, so that was like my stepping stone to being an ambassador, and that’s another reason why I love my university!
You said a key word there: ambassador, which of course, means a lot right now. Describe to us when you were crowned Miss DC USA. Explain to us your thoughts and emotions that immediate time.
So the moment I was crowned, it was a full experience of gratitude. I placed First Runner up the first two years I competed, and I told myself on the third try to go all out and Kara, be yourself, and no matter what happens, life goes on. And I reminded myself that it’s the experience and the process, not always the outcome that’s going to define your character. I just remember standing on stage and looking at my mom and then when the host came over and said “do you want to give any special words?” I tried to shout out as many people as I could, but I had to stop and say “I’m gonna be here until 2028!” It’s just so overwhelming, the love and support that I’ve received, and the help from so many family, friends and coaches. To know that people in your corner, can really change your outlook on a lot of aspects in life.
Very true, a true testament as to when people sow good seeds into you and the result is an individual that recognizes that! Thank you for mentioning that, because it is a sedge way to the next question. With you being Miss DC, How important is it for you to show a positive representation to our young ladies today?
There’s no other way for it to be done. Either be positive and do it right or don’t do it at all. I came into this position, and my whole mantra in life to have a growth mindset at all times. And knowing that I have this crown and this sash and so many young girls are looking up to me because they see this, this leader, this ambassador. It’s my duty, my purpose to give back to them, to let them know how special they are. Let them know that the world needs them, that curiosity is going to drive you to your passion, and also just remind them that you have to be a valuable teammate/player. All these characteristics helped mold me into a woman. To know that someone molded me and put time into crafting me, it’s only my right and my duty to give it back into somebody else.
And you’re doing that even now, because you’ve actually created a community outreach program called Science Exploration for Kids!
Yes! SE4K! So initially I started in college at South Carolina State University and it was called Science is Magic, and I changed the title over when I moved to DC, because I wasn’t liking the title any more to be honest. When I changed to Science Exploration for Kids, I wanted it to be a way that kids could see science as fun. So what I do is I go elementary schools, I go to recreational centers and we do a project, and we do it like we are true scientists! I give them goggles, we set everything up properly, I have a procedure, we read the procedure, because reading is so fundamental in life. Reading comprehension will get you so far. I have them popcorn read around the classroom, then when we are done reading, I ask someone “what do I mean when I have this written on the procedure?” When I hear back from these children that they actually understand and comprehend what they just read, I mean it’s mind-boggling. I’m the youngest of all my siblings, so to see children so inquisitive at a young age is something I don’t think I had the chance to see. When I see how enlightened these kids are by science, it just puts this awe over my heart and my spirit, because I know I struggled with math as an adolescent. It’s my duty to give back to these children and let them know that science is fun, science can lead you to a great career, and science expands your imagination. Science truly is easy, if you just use all of your parameters in your atmosphere, things around you. The answers are right there, that’s what I always try to focus on with my students, don’t over think it! Everything is right in front of you.
Ok, so you’re talking about science, and if our readers don’t know, not only are you Miss Dc, you work at the United States Regulatory Commission. So you are juggling two very prestigious jobs, how do you do that?
Wow, so transparency….I believe is the driving force!
Right! When I first was crowned, someone posted on Facebook and a colleague found out (laughing) and when I got to work, it was this overwhelming response from everyone at work. Actually, I didn’t tell anyone, then my Director of my office had announced during an office meeting, I remember I was afraid thinking that someone going to look at me like I’m not taking my job seriously or I’m allocating time unequally to one or the other. Essentially, I’m just so touched how receptive everybody is and transparency is what’s driving me to really have both of the jobs. I just have to let my supervisor know ahead of time, I stay at work later, I come into work early some days. I mean 6am is the earliest I get there and stay until 7pm sometimes because at the end of the day, optimism is something we need in life, but realism is also something we have to focus on. Balancing both of these jobs is a testament to my endurance as well. I have to make sure I’m extremely organized , honestly I was never into planners until December 17th when I was crowned Miss DC USA, and my whole life has changed tremendously, from using planners, calendars and using my cell phone. Just staying abreast with people, writing letters and stuff like that. Like I said, transparency is key.
Final question, one I know right off the top of my head, that I know you’ll have an answer: Who inspires you the most?
I’ll be honest, there are two, so I’m going to give you one, and then I’ll tell you the other. My mother! My mother, Betsy Ann Parker McCullough!
Betty Ann Parker McCullough!
Yes, yes! We call her Betsy, Betsy Ann. My mother is truly, hands down the strongest person I know. Upon her taking in five kids that aren’t biologically hers, because she fell in love with children that didn’t have a mother. My older siblings’ mother died of an asthma attack, that’s my father’s first wife. My mother grew up in a very desolate town in South Carolina on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach, but someone took so much time into crafting her, so she had the opportunity to play basketball at Benedict College, a point guard there. She spent 23 years in the Navy, I mean the lady know French, she’s literally been to every continent, every country all around the world, she’s placed her hands into the Red Sea. And still today, I’m learning so much about her activities, it puts me in awe. She’s just a testimony of a true mother, a lover, someone who will truly give their all and share their last. I’m so thankful for my mother, I don’t know where I would be without her, and we talk every morning at 7am!
Another person that inspires me is the late Annie Malone (Turnbull Malone). We all know Madame CJ Walker, but she (Annie Malone) was Madame CJ Walker’s mentor. So Madame CJ Walker learned from her. She brought on many women so they could get their education, she also made sure that she was opening doors to women back in the day so they could have funding opportunities like investments and such. Her whole map out plan was to lift as she climbed, and I just respect that woman so much. Being a chemist and seeing how far she made it, and she isn’t acknowledged as well as Madame CJ Walker is, but learning your history is so important, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to find out who she was.
Shouts out to your mother, Mrs. McCullough! Thank you for your wonderful work and investment in such a wonderful young lady! Where do you see in the immediate future for Kara McCullough?
That’s like so difficult, because there’s Kara McCullough, then there’s Miss DC USA. If things work out and the favor that God does want to provide, I’m really hoping and praying that I can start my program. I’m looking to start a High school summer internship program, it’s going to be for three weeks or so, and essentially we are going to lean about Nuclear Power for high school students. Because it’s going to be a renaissance in the next ten to twenty years, because our bigger nuclear power reactors are decommissioning nationwide and now the nation is moving toward these smaller reactors. We’re going to have to be geared up in the nation, we don’t want anyone to rush and learn these types of techniques. So I think that if we gear high school student up, get their interest piquing in Nuclear Energy, then I think when they go to college, they will have a clear idea “I think I want to study Nuclear Engineering or Radiochemistry or Health Physics.” So they can be those pioneers in the Nuclear Energy within the next ten to twenty years. I see it coming, and I think it could be a great opportunity for something to really take off, so look out for that!
Thank you for taking time for sitting down with us a sharing with us!
Thank you as well! Thank you for the opportunity! It means so much!
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