MANKATO — For years the winner of the Miss Mankato competition has worked with Project G.E.M. and also gone into area schools to talk about her platform with youth.
But Shelly Bartlett, director of Miss Mankato, said the winner crowned in November, Minnesota State University student Gabrielle Chavers, is being rejected by some. Chavers’ platform is “Abstinence: You’re Worth the Wait.”
“Typically, I always had good communication with Project G.E.M.,” Bartlett said.
Chavers said she harbors no ill will. She just wants to find more opportunities to spread her message.
“There has been a little bit of a roadblock to get this message out there,” she said.
Alice De Yonge, program director of Project G.E.M., said she didn’t think abstinence was an appropriate topic for the audience. The educational nonprofit organization provides programming for special-needs and at-risk youth.
“We’re talking about girls who’ve already got babies,” De Yonge said. “I bring in Planned Parenthood. I had a child-support case officer.”
De Yonge said an example of a past appropriate platform for Project G.E.M. by a Miss Mankato presenter was body image and anorexia.
“Realistically, I have to be very choosey about what speakers to bring in,” De Yonge said. “These platform presentations are very specific, and they’re not meant for every target audience that these girls are trying to reach out to. Abstinence is not one that is really appropriate for the students I book for.”
Chavers disagrees and thinks the topic, rooted in a message of self-respect and self-esteem, was dismissed too quickly.
“It’s something that is special to me,” Chavers said. “They don’t have to (succumb) to societal pressure to have sex. ... It’s not too late for them. So what if you’ve already had a kid? So what if you’re not a virgin? You don’t have to continue that path.”