VALDOSTA--Two amazing young women were crowned Saturday night--Amanda Kozak as Miss Valdosta and Ansley Childree as Miss Outstanding Teen Valdosta.

These two stood above many other beautiful, talented contestants as women who would best represent Valdosta at the Miss Georgia and Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen scholarship pageants that will take place in June 2006. Miss Georgia will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant.

As the daughter of Jolene and Kenneth Kozak, Amanda Kozak is a 21-year-old senior at Valdosta State University whose passion is mentoring children. She is majoring in early childhood education with plans to become a teacher. Her long-term goals include gaining several years of experience in teaching, earning a masters in administration and becoming a school principal.

While she foresees starting a family in her future, she doesn't consider it a goal but something that will come with life as she focuses on her personal and career goals.

For now, she has a Shi Tzu named Lord Percival who makes her laugh as he takes on bigger dogs with a spirit that she herself finds all to familiar.

Kozak's favorite aspects of competition are the opportunities for appearances that help her promote her platform, Mentoring with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization.

When initially choosing her platform, she didn't consider mentoring.

"I've been mentoring in some way since middle school. I didn't realize it could be a platform because to me it was a lifestyle," she explained.

Once it was developed, she began working toward the goal of the National Big Brothers Big Sisters organization--serving one million kids nationwide. Kozak now plans to use her reign as Miss Valdosta to encourage more people to volunteer as mentors to young children.

The extended family she has built through her pageant experiences is another aspect of competition that this military daughter enjoys. Because her family moved often, many of her lasting friendships have come from scholarship competitions.

With four preliminary runner-up achievements, a Miss Presidential Pathways title, a Miss Warner Robbins title and two Miss Georgia appearances, she has had many occasions to create close relationships. Her most recent first runner-up awards came in June at her second Miss Georgia competition and last week at the National Sweetheart Pageant, held in Hoopeston, Ill.

Kozak chose to compete in the Miss Valdosta pageant because of the community support she has seen in the past.

"I'm very impressed with the City of Valdosta and Mayor John Fretti. They are very supportive of their queens," she said.

Local support will send this stunning young woman to the state level competition and into the community as an ambassador.

Ansley Childree, the daughter of Phyllis and Gary Childree, will also be a representative for Valdosta. As a 16-year-old college preparatory student at Valdosta High School, she hopes to use her reign to promote her platform, Connecting Children with the Arts.

With an extensive background in dance, this ballerina believes that the arts gave her the confidence to succeed. This was obvious as she danced her way into the judges' hearts on Saturday evening.

Childree believes more children should be involved in art programs, which is why she started a special program. A t-shirt was created that is being sold by the Little Actors Theatre, and proceeds from sales will go to a scholarship fund to help less fortunate children participate in art programs.

She loves pageants because of the many learning opportunities. In addition to little tips for making her smile brighter or her dress fit perfect, aspects like interviewing have taught her life long skills.

These skills she will take with her as she works toward her lifelong goals. She hopes to receive a dance scholarship to Florida State University, where she wants to study physical therapy.

Both girls were surprised by the honor and are looking forward to promoting their platforms on the state and hopefully, national levels.

Several impressive young women followed these two as runners-up. In the Miss Valdosta category, Tara Rountree, the 22-year-old daughter of Melanie Rountree and Terry Rountree, was honored as first runner-up and Kristine Wager, the 22-year-old daughter of Dr. Mike and Cece Wager, was named second runner-up.

Rountree's platform is Hearts and Hands through Volunteerism; Wager's is Staying in Control: The Fight of Teen Depression.

In the Miss Outstanding Teen competition, Alexandra Beall, the 15-year-old daughter of Cheryl and Steve Beall, was the first runner-up. Her platform is Youth Missions.

Awards were also given to the winners of individual categories. In the Miss Valdosta division, Kozak won the Allison Colson Public Service Award for interview as well as the McKee Lifestyle and Fitness award for swimsuit. Kristine Wager took the Mike Dover Family Artistic Expression Award for her impressive vocal talent. Miss Congeniality was Tiffany Giles.

Childree took home the Gail Green Artistic Expression Award.

In addition to her crown, Miss Valdosta won a $1,500 scholarship and a multitude of gifts from local businesses. The first runner-up won a $300 scholarship and the second runner-up received a $200 scholarship.

Miss Valdosta Outstanding Teen received a crown as well as a $500 savings bond, her paid $300 entry into the Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen competition and a variety of gifts from local businesses. The teen runner-up received a $300 savings bond.

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