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Glen Ellyn teen ‘plays it forward’

Published: Monday, July 22, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:55 p.m. CDT

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GLEN ELLYN – For Isabelle “Izzy” Hanson of Glen Ellyn, everything has been a whirlwind since she was crowned Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“It was a blessing and an honor,” said Hanson, 17, who is a rising senior at Benet Academy in Lisle. “Looking back on the moment, it’s all a blur, to be honest.”

When she was in eighth grade, Hanson competed in her first pageant, National American Miss Illinois Junior Teen. She won the title her sophomore year of high school and went on to be named Miss Northern Suburbs’ Outstanding Teen in October 2012, qualifying her to be a contestant for this year’s Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen competition, where she was crowned June 28.

Hanson became involved with pageants at the urging of her piano and vocal teachers, who thought they would be another way for her to receive constructive feedback.

She followed their advice and continues to share her musical talents, playing violin for the talent portion of the Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen pageant.

Hanson has played violin for 13 years, nine of them with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), which inspired her Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen platform, “Play It Forward: The Gift of Music.”

As part of the platform, Hanson pledged to raise $1,650 before the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant to allow three students to participate in CYSO’s new steel orchestra program for a year. The program is aimed at Chicago Public School students who do not have access to a traditional music education.

If she wins Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant in August, Hanson plans to talk to other city orchestras to encourage them to establish similar programs for students in their communities.

For Hanson, the crown of Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen is more than a title: It’s a responsibility.

“I am a role model for teens and children of the state of Illinois,” Hanson said. “With my title, I represent the four points of the crown, which are scholarship, service, success and style.”

Hanson’s mom, Terry, said her daughter has always possessed qualities that have helped her to inspire others.

“She has goals for herself that have allowed me to be the parent that I am,” Terry said. “She’s that guiding beam.”

Hanson will be busy with various appearances and fundraisers throughout the year. But first, she will compete in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant, which will hold its final competition Aug. 17.

Her pageant preparations include wardrobe fittings with Bridal Elegance in Ottawa, Ill., and interview training with her pageant directors, Audrey Valles and Scott Billadeau.

“In my preparation, the most important thing is going into myself and realizing more about myself and how to be the best that I can be,” Hanson said. “Everything else comes after that.”

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