Local teens receive royal recognition

By KALA BOLTON/Special to the Reporter

Two Oak Mountain High School students and a Pelham High School student were rewarded by true royalty Saturday.

Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen 2012 Callie Walker, the 2011 winner, Mi’a Callens and Miss Tennessee Valley 2012 Hayley Barber were recognized by His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, the youngest son of the Queen of England, at an afternoon garden party at a private Mountain Brook residence on April 28.

Callens, 18, Barber, 17, and Walker, 14, were awarded bronze medals for their accomplishments in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program. The award, which recently formed a partnership with the Miss America organization, promotes self-development through encouraging and recognizing youth participation and achievements in community service, physical fitness, special skills and an adventurous journey.

“Participating in Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen Program as well as the national program, you are already involved in community service and you have a talent, so you are exercising all the time,” Walker said. “Those are the qualities of this award program.”

Callens, Barber and Walker and a handful of other recipients were presented their medals by Gov. Robert Bentley and his wife, Dianne, while Prince Edward watched alongside Birmingham Mayor William Bell and 2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler.

“A lot of the girls already have platforms with Miss Alabama and the Miss America organization,” said Callens, who volunteers regularly with the Make-A-Wish foundation while Walker’s platform involves volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House. “For the bronze medal, you have to complete an overnight journey. We went to a local camping site here in Alabama. We hiked, played with horses, did some high and low ropes courses and even did a fun, outdoorsy Miss Alabama pageant, so that was really fun.”

Barber’s platform is “Sight for Small Eyes.” She partnered with the Pelham-based Sight Savers America, which works to assist children with low vision. “To see the prince, the governor and Miss America was like a dream come true, and it
certainly made all the hard work in earning the award worthwhile,” said Barber.

Since its inception in 1956, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has been achieved by more than seven million youth, ages 14-25, in 132 countries. It is currently in its fourth year of operation in the United States.

“These girls are doing all this anyway,” said Anita Walker, Director of Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen pageant. “It’s incredible because I know how hard they work, and this is a wonderful award.”

Medals are awarded on three levels, and both Callens and Walker said they are shooting for silver and gold as they continue their work with both the Miss Alabama organization and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program.

“It has been a great experience,” Walker said. “I never thought that I would meet Miss America and Prince Edward all in one day. It’s going to be a great story to tell one day.”