Grace Ann Carroll competed in Miss North Carolina last year and walked away as a top ten finalist — thinking she was walking off the stage for the last time.
Through sheer determination and persistence, Carroll will be competing again this year for the title later this month. When Carroll, who now holds the title of Greater Miss Sampson County, walked off the Miss North Carolina stage last year, she was 23-years-old and about to age out of the organization. A later September birthday would prevent her from competing again.
“I decided to write a letter to the national organization (Miss America Organization) requesting a fair change in the age requirement so that everyone could have an equal opportunity to compete their final year,” Carroll explained. “A few months later, I was sitting in class at UNC-Greensboro when I looked down and realized I had a missed call and a text message from the director of Miss North Carolina.”
Carroll’s letter was read, and her voice was heard. The Miss America Organization changed the age requirements for the national, state and local competitions.
“I was shocked not only that the organization had read my letter, but that I helped to change a national rule by using my voice,” Carroll said. “That is my message to children I speak to across Sampson County. Never give up on your dreams. Never forget that you can use your voice to make an impact.”
“Healthy Me, Health NC” is Carroll’s platform, which she developed based on a concept that individuals who make healthy lifestyle choices will make their community and state a healthier place.
“What began as a nutrition education program offered in schools, health departments, and hospitals has evolved into a statewide movement with an online presence via #HealthyMeHealthyNC,” Carroll said. “I have accumulated over 5,000 hours of community service most of which involves nutrition education.”
Under her platform, Carroll has been able to create a nutrition coloring book for children available in all N.C. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals; speak with diabetes support groups, and breastfeeding moms groups, at times using an interpreter to break through language barriers; teach weekly nutrition classes for cancer patients and survivors at Duke-Raleigh Hospital; offer a lunch-and-learn nutrition series for employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; provide medical nutrition therapy to home-bound residents across the state of North Carolina; and partner with “Cooking Matters,” a national organization teaching families how to shop for and cook nutritious meals on a budget.
This isn’t the first time Carroll has represented Sampson County in a pageant. She won the title of Miss Greater Sampson County Outstanding Teen in 2013, and winning the title this year completed the circle.
“I was so overwhelmed with gratitude as I was crowned Miss Greater Sampson County,” Carroll explained. “Representing the incredible salt of the earth, hard-working people of Sampson County is an absolute honor. Preparing for Miss North Carolina has been extremely grueling, but I would not be where I am today without my incredible Greater Sampson County Committee, and the numerous Sampson County sponsors that supported me.”
Carroll says if she could be remembered for one thing, it would be her faith in Jesus Christ.
“I know this world is only temporary, but my goal is that every person I encounter would feel His love and light through me,” Carroll said.
A native of Smithfield, Carroll is the daughter of Mike and Lynda Carroll. She received her bachelor of science in nutrition from North Carolina State University and master of science in nutrition from Meredith College. She is currently completing a dietetic internship through the University of North Carolina-Greensboro to become a registered dietitian.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.