A graduate of Liberty University, Abigail Hayes has had a busy schedule of meetings and appearances as she carries out the duties of the Miss Oregon crown in her home state and beyond. But she said the school’s online format allowed her to balance her classroom work throughout her journey with the Miss America organization and pursue a career helping underserved young people.
Hayes is earning a BA in Strategic Communications and is among more than 23,000 Class of 2022 graduates to be recognized this week at the launch. Hayes will participate from his home in Damascus, Oregon, watching the ceremonies live from campus. (Liberty holds graduation ceremonies Thursday through Saturday, with a main ceremony scheduled for Friday evening.)
“When I was competing for Miss Oregon, one of the things I got to talk about in my interview with the judges was that my school was flexible enough that I could travel all over Oregon or the rest of the country and take my classes with me. It was nice to do it at my own pace and when I had time in my strict schedule,” she said, adding that her December final exams were on the same evening as Miss America, but that her teachers allowed her to work in advance “Even though it’s online, my teachers have been so easy to reach and have been so helpful.”
A year before receiving her crown, Hayes knew she wanted to earn an online undergraduate degree as the first step in pursuing a career in law. She heard about Liberty University’s online programs and the school’s Christian worldview on education from a friend and quickly signed up.
“I knew I wanted to do an online program because it would be more affordable for me, and I had planned to stay in Oregon, and I had a friend who had already joined Liberty University Online telling me how the professors are amazing,” Hayes said. “From a very young age, I participated in a national policy debating league and I loved it…and I knew that studying strategic communication would help improve my speaking skills so that one day I can then pursue a career in family law.
Hayes’ aspirations to compete in the Miss America pageant run in the family, with her mother, Jill (Boberg) Hayes, holding the Miss Portland crown in 1980. Growing up on a hobby farm, Hayes and her three sisters watched Miss America broadcasts every year.
“My mother’s main advice was to always be true to my core values, and that also includes what Liberty values, to be a Champion for Christ“, Hayes said. “I think God helped me become Miss Oregon, and my parents taught me to always give glory and grace to him and never give up on what I stand for.”
Every Miss America contestant has a primary social impact initiative. Hayes’ platform is to create opportunities for and encourage underserved youth. Speaking at high schools and colleges, meeting with lawmakers, and acting as an ambassador for the National Center for Children of Poverty, she relished the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives.
“Being able to use this platform for such an important issue has been my favorite part of this whole experience,” she said. “Making a difference in my community is the icing on the cake. These are my most impactful experiences as Miss Oregon.
Hayes wasn’t the only Miss America contestant to have ties to Liberty during the December pageant. She met Miss Virginia Tatum Shepherd, a 2021 Liberty graduate who attended the residency, and the two bonded over their shared interests and values.
“I actually heard about her through her vocal coach originally,” Hayes said. “When we met at Miss America, we both talked about how we came from Liberty, and all that time together, it was nice to have someone there who shared so many of my values and beliefs.”
For the talent portion of the contest, Hayes sang a rendition of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” and she found herself performing on the final night (December 16) as the fourth runner-up. Katie Harman, the 2001 Miss Oregon who became Miss America, mentored Hayes before the pageant and offered her Christ-centered guidance.
“She told me that at every stage of the competition, what she did to calm her nerves was to thank God for everything she had at that moment, and that’s what I said. done,” Hayes said. “When I was called top 10 and then top 5, I was distraught but I wasn’t even nervous. I was so excited to be selected as one of the 51 amazing women. The only word I ‘ai is just gratitude, each of these contestants could have been Miss America. It was a dream come true.”
Hayes will crown his successor on June 18. She plans to take the LSAT in September and apply for early admission to several law schools for fall 2023.
“I’ve always had a passion for young people, and family law is the area that most affects young people,” she said. “My desire is to help the next generation of leaders rise again and find hope, especially with today’s youth who don’t seem to have much hope for our future. I want to be an ambassador of hope, change and light.