By Rebekah Daniels
Winning the Oregon State's Dairy Princess crown was, of course, the hope of all seven finalists in the annual competition that is held each January. Except one: Anna Monroe, '08, then a junior at Whitworth.
The thought of having to commit a full year representing her state's dairy industry, speaking to school groups and government officials, and attending meetings held no appeal for her. Winning would mean withdrawing from Whitworth and delaying graduation for a year.
So, as someone who hated change and the prospect of a major disruption in her life, Monroe did what she could to make sure she wouldn't win. She didn't memorize her speech and stumbled in a few spots. When given an impromptu question to answer, the other contestants delivered memorized responses to perfection. Monroe wrote the answer to the impromptu question once, put it on note cards and took them on stage hoping the judges would see and dock her points.
But whatever she did wasn't enough. To her astonishment, the judges were impressed enough by what they saw as her authenticity that they gave her the crown. And with that came an honor she had never wanted but that, looking back, led to a year of opportunity. Now, reflecting on that year, Monroe said she would not change anything – except that she wishes she had gone into the position with a better attitude.
"Moving back home was going to be a hard transition for me," Monroe said.
She had established herself at Whitworth. Moving back to Oregon to live with her family for a year, then coming back and having to reconnect at Whitworth, was not something she wanted to do, she said.
When all the contestants were on stage waiting to be crowned, her mind was everywhere.
She had been Yamhill County's Princess the year before and it was her duty to represent her county on the stage that night. She recalls that she was thinking about how grateful she was for the opportunity – but the also was thinking about a paper she had to write for her sports psychology class the coming Monday, she said.
"When the crown was placed on my head it was pure shock," Monroe said.
A photographer complemented her on her surprised expression as she was crowned Oregon State Dairy Princess.
When she finally got away from the crowd and the little girls who were asking her to sign her autograph, she burst into tears in the women's bathroom.
"I was not supposed to win; this was not my plan," Monroe said to her mother.
Her mindset was not ready to win, and certainly not for a role that required her to serve as the spokesperson for the dairy industry during her term. Monroe would need to speak to government officials on behalf of the dairy farmers, give radio and television interviews, and speak in other settings. Yet, she admitted, "I hated public speaking with a passion."
But having been selected for the position, she decided that she was going to give the role 100 percent and cheat neither the industry nor herself, she said. Instead, she knew she needed to be thankful and grateful for this opportunity.
As Dairy Princess, Monroe attended famers markets, dairy council meetings, the fair and classroom visits. Monroe gave presentations to more than 10,000 students. She enjoyed going to the classrooms the most because it was an educational opportunity for the kids.
She informed them on how the milk went from the cow, to the plants and to the consumer. She also explained the importance of dairy products and what the nutrients they provide do for your body, she said.
The timing of her year off from Whitworth brought another opportunity she did not welcome: being able to be home during the catastrophic fire that destroyed her family's wood-processing business. Monroe Oak, Inc., supported six families. "We pretty much lost everything, but it was more [important] what we received when everyone came together and chose not to be defeated through [our] loss," Monroe said.
She was glad she was home to see her family come together. People from the community donated and lent money to her family so they could rebuild and get back on their feet. In 2010 or 2011, her family should be able to pay back all the money that was lent to them, she said.
But she also had to focus on her Dairy Princess responsibilities and learned that life goes on despite hardship. When Monroe's term as Dairy Princess ended she was ready to come back to Whitworth and finish school, she said.
When she started classes within her major she realized that she was in a new group of people. The students had already bonded as a class and she was the odd one out, being the older new student in the class.
All her friends had changed, she said. "They had a whole year of developing without me," Monroe said. She also grew, but in different ways. "I came back more balanced, having enough time for church, family, friends and school. Before it was just school," Monroe said.
Monroe said that being Dairy Princess taught her much and opened new avenues for her. "This experience allowed me to have more depth as a person," Monroe said. "I gained a lot more real-life experience outside the college bubble."
Monroe explained that through her experience as Dairy Princess she discovered that certain changes may not be a part of your plan, but they can teach you more about yourself and life. She added, "It was a good way of God forcing me to change, because I was good at resisting change."