Swan crowned Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen

With tears running down her face, as the crown was placed on her head, Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen Annie Swan lifted her finger and pointed it skyward.
“When they called out the first runner up I thought, well I didn’t place,” Swan said. “It never crossed my mind that I had won.”
But as they started saying Miss International City, her preliminary title, she just lost it. 
“I couldn’t believe it. In interviews, when asked what the first thing I would do if I won, I always said cry, but I didn’t know I’d really do it. Whenever they called my name I cried. I’m not a pretty crier,” the 15-year-old Thomas Jefferson Academy student said. “The reason I pointed up to God is because it wouldn’t have been possible without Him. He comforted me all week and I wouldn’t have been able to make it through it without Him.” 
Swan was nearly as surprised three years ago when she won her first preliminary pageant, Miss Emanuel County. An avid athlete and competitive dancer, she said she just signed up for that pageant as a way to get more stage practice for her dance routine in front of a live audience. 
“But then, after I won I really got involved in my platform to Raise a Voice for ALS,” she said. “I decided I wanted to keep competing to give a voice to that platform.”
Her grandfather, Wayne Battle of Wadley, had recently been diagnosed with the neuromuscular disorder, also known as Lou Gerig’s Disease, and it had robbed him of his voice. 
“He couldn’t speak, but I could see in his eyes how happy he was for me,” she said. 
Swan immediately made it her mission to raise money to fight the disease that was taking so much from her family.
“He was there when she won her preliminary, but the state pageant was in June and he died in March so he never got to see her on the Miss Georgia stage,” Annie’s mother, Laura Swan said. “Her goal is to find a cure for ALS in her lifetime.”
That first year she was the youngest contestant in the Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen competition. 
And while she did not place, she did receive a non-finalist talent award.
Some of the older contestants also took her under their wings, told her what to expect and coached her on how to make the best impression on stage.
“I was so nervous backstage because I had never done anything like that and I was so young,” she said. “It meant a lot that they helped me. One day I hope to be able give back like that.”
For the next two years she worked on her platform, organizing fund raisers and raising awareness for ALS research. 
In 2016, as Miss Macon Outstanding Teen, Swan received third runner up at the state level and overall fitness winner.
This year she qualified as Miss International City’s Outstanding Teen and by the time of the state pageant, she had raised $55,000 for ALS research.
“She’s a lot more independent,” her mother said of her daughter since she has been involved in the pageants. “Just seeing her able to stand before groups of people and present her platform and the drive she has to raise money. She does it herself. I don’t have to push her to work on any of it. She wants to do it.”
Swan said she has made so many friends from across the state at these events, but this year was special because there were three girls from neighboring Emanuel County who are members of her dance company at the state competition, as well as fellow TJA student Alaylla Watkins who finished fourth runner up.
“It’s really cool because not only do we get to experience every day together, but we get this other experience in life, being on stage,” Swan said. “I enjoy having them there because going into this you know you’re going to meet so many friends, but to know you already have some before you go is nice.”
Not only has she made a lot of friends, but Swan said both the pageants themselves and the preparation she has had to do for them the last three years have had a huge impact on her personally. 
“I’ve really improved my communication skills,” she said. “It has given me confidence in myself. Just being on stage and having all those friends, it’s really a lot of fun.”
But don’t let anyone tell you there is not a lot of hard work that goes into preparing for competition, she said. 
“This is a scholarship pageant and it is different,” she said. “It is not all about how you look, it’s about how you present yourself. It includes an interview, fitness, talent and platform. It’s about making sure whoever wins is well rounded. It has changed me as a person. It has given me confidence. It has shown me how to make a better impression.”
In addition to being crowned the 2017 Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen, Swan won a talent preliminary, evening gown and on stage question preliminary and tied with her friend and fellow TJA student, Alaylla Watkins as the overall fitness winner.
Next month Swan will travel to Orlando to represent Georgia in the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant July 25 through July 29.
“After she was crowned we went to a reception and a couple of judges came up to me and said they fell in love with her during the interview and when her eight minutes were up they did not want her to leave,” he mother said. “It has been great for her, it really has. She has matured a lot. I just, we were overwhelmed. We never expected it. I kept saying she’s too young, she won’t win this year. The best thing for me was reading the comments (on Facebook) from the other girls of how Annie was praying with the other girls back stage and encouraging them. It made me cry.”
Swan said she wants to thank the Jefferson County community who continues to support her and her ALS fundraising projects. 
She advises any other girls out there who might aspire to walk across the stage and become a part of the Miss America organization to work hard. 
“Never give up and be yourself at all times,” Swan said. “I’m proof that your age, your size, your height, it doesn’t matter, you can make a difference.”