Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Wright.
Hi Haley, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
One year ago today, I was under the impression that the Miss Arizona and Miss America Organizations (MAO) were just beauty pageants. Vying for the job of Miss Arizona was not a dream I could even begin to fathom. Today, I represent these organizations that emphasize the importance of living a life of service over self, reward women with millions of dollars worth of scholarships, and prepare them for successful careers by equipping them with the tools and resources they need.
Going back in time- I lost my little brother, James Jr., to childhood cancer in 2015. Aside from being my little brother, he was my closest friend. Following his passing, I lost every ounce of motivation, drive, and ambition and succumbed to the darkest realities of grieving. Every part of my life suffered- my education, physical health, and relationships with my closest friends and family- all spiraled out of control and led me down what felt like a never-ending black hole.
I can’t tell you when or how (there is no come to Jesus moment), but one day I realized that my life is worth living. I realized that choosing to heal is an act of courage and that I am not only capable of living a fulfilled life- I am deserving of it. And then the story began.
All at once, life’s greatest moments began to fall into my lap. After receiving my first declination letter into nursing school, I was accepted into three nursing schools. I am now graduating Magna Cum Laude from Grand Canyon University this December with my Bachelor’s in Nursing. I took hold of my physical health and lost over 100 pounds. And the current Miss Yuma County, Gabriella Heinz, and I became friends (yes, this is monumental). I thought Gabby was a superhero. She walked into a room and demanded your attention- trust me, if Gabby’s talking, you want to listen. I walked away from every conversation with her feeling a little taller- and I wanted to be that girl for someone else. She was the first person to introduce me to the program and the first person who made me believe that I was capable of competing. She mentored me as I prepared for the local competition; the rest is history.
I crowned Miss Yuma County in November 2021, an official local preliminary title for Miss Arizona and Miss America. I was the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship at our local community college, thus being able to attend my last year of nursing school on scholarship. I was awarded over $3,000 in scholarships.
Candidates in the MAO all have a platform that they spend their year of service championing; this is called their Social Impact Initiative (SII). I knew immediately what my SII would be. “It Takes a Village: No Child Fights Cancer Alone” was inspired by the legacy my brother left in my heart. I witnessed, first-hand, the power of fellowship during my brother’s treatment, and I knew I wanted to pour into the community that walks in the shoes I once walked. Because of the outpouring of love and grace from my community, family, and friends, I stepped into my destiny and was now capable of serving as a reminder of the one thing childhood cancer cannot take from us: hope.
Since becoming Miss Yuma County, I have held 7 fundraisers, spear-headed a 5k Fun Run, and collectively raised over $7,000 for families battling childhood cancer. I have partnered with non-profit organizations like Hunter’s Army. A locally run non-profit that provides financial assistance to families in Yuma battling childhood cancer, and state-wide non-profits like the Ronald McDonald House, who welcomed my family during my brother’s nine months of treatment.
I have an ambitious dream of elevating the fight against childhood cancer across Arizona. I will now compete for the job of Miss Arizona- a position that will provide me with an even larger podium to speak about this cause.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not. As girls in this fast-paced, Instagram-filtered world, we tend to think less of ourselves. I struggled to be front-and-center with a shiny crown on my head because I didn’t believe I deserved it. It took so much self-reflection and mental management to reach a point where I realized that I deserved the success I worked for. In being sort of a public figure in my community, I made it a point to be vulnerable about the struggles I face and share my story of transformation to anyone who will listen in hopes of inspiring them to step into their destiny, too.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Being a titleholder in the Miss America Organization has given me the tools, resources, and platform to share the stories of Arizonans battling childhood cancer. I have learned invaluable public speaking and interview skills and how to run a successful fundraiser. I made fundraising my specialty, as relieving financial burdens from families battling childhood cancer is my priority. I have partnered with local restaurants and small businesses to raise money that directly benefited families, but my greatest achievement was planning a successful Fun Run that raised over $5000. I worked tirelessly for 3 months to hold this completely sponsored event, which allowed for 100% of profits made to be donated.
I am also known in my community as a recently graduated nurse. I have shared my brother’s story and how he inspired me to embark on a journey that will one day lead me into the nursing specialty field of pediatric oncology. I am incredibly proud of myself for sharing my journey through nursing school with my community while also rallying behind children and families battling childhood cancer. I dedicated my life to serving others and take great pride in that. I aspire to work at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and change lives the way my brother’s nurses changed mine.
I think what sets me apart from others is my perseverance and courage. I have failed more times than succeeded, but I continue moving forward. I vulnerably share my moments of defeat because I have learned that the failures we face today are merely prerequisites to the success we will enjoy tomorrow.
What matters most to you? Why?
I would say, overall, representation. I am a small-town girl pursuing big dreams, a sibling to a child who lost his life to cancer, and a woman pursuing a career in the medical field- but most importantly, I am a girl who has overcome obstacles that should have stopped me in my tracks. This is all, really, all-encompassing because I represent so many communities.
I have been given a stage to share my story on, and by doing so, I have represented the stories of many families facing the devastating realities of childhood cancer. This is important to me because funding a child’s treatment is virtually impossible without awareness. Only 2 facilities in Arizona can treat children with cancer- this means that countless families are left to fend for themselves. By adding to the conversation, sharing the needs of caregivers, and highlighting the urgency to give in fundraisers, my community has aided me in amplifying the voices of families across Arizona battling childhood cancer. This representation will continue the fight against childhood cancer and not only eliminate the financial barriers families face during treatment but will one day lead us to a cure.
Haley placed 1st Runner Up at Miss Arizona and won a full-ride scholarship to Western New Mexico University up to her Master’s Degree. She will continue the fight against childhood cancer and plans to transform her Social Impact Initiative to a 501(c)(3).
- Website: https://www.yumascholarshipprogram.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/missyumacountyaz/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/missyumacountyaz
- Other: http://www.missarizona.org/2022-peoples-choice/yuma-county
Gabi Marshall Photography