2018 Miss Kansas winner Hannah Klaassen used tap-dancing to calm her nerves, and in her pursuit of a dream to become the girl whom others look up to in real life.
Coming into the 2018 Miss Kansas pageant in Pratt, Miss South Central Hannah Klaassen’s goal was to make the top 10 cut. When she was selected for the top five she was ecstatic. When her name was announced Saturday evening as 2018 Miss Kansas it took a minute or two for the Arkansas City native to comprehend what was happening.
“It had been an interesting week because there were three Hannahs plus our choreographer was Hannah, so I learned pretty quick not to answer every time someone said Hannah,” Klaassen said. “When they announced my name as Miss Kansas, I slowly ticked off in my mind where all the other Hannahs were and then I realized they were waiting on me! It seemed like time stood still for a bit and then I thought, I am Miss Kansas. I am going to the Miss America pageant. I was just in awe.”
With a great smile and calm demeanor, Klaassen tap-danced her way into the hearts of the audience in preliminary and finals competitions, and it was no accident that she seemed to have no trouble with nerves.
“I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, and I have always loved tap-dancing,” Klaassen said. “Whenever I am nervous I start tapping my toes so I knew it was a perfect talent for me to use at Miss Kansas. Tap dancing really helps with nerve control.”
Klaassen chose to tap dance to a song from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“I saw that show twice and just loved it,” she said. “This song pumps me up every time, so it was a great choice.”
Music has always been important in Klaassen’s life, something she credits after God, family and friends for her success. She participated in drama and theater productions at Ark Valley High School, including leading roles in “Annie” and “All Shook Up.”
A coming sophomore Presidential Scholar at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, she also participated in music at the college level as a freshman member of the concert choir and part of a small a capella group called TFX.
Klaassen said her leadership classes at Tabor College helped prepare her for the interview portion of the Miss Kansas pageant and fellow students and teachers asked her questions and listened to her speeches.
One of those speeches, given on her pageant platform subject “The Mind Matters: lessening the stigma of mental illness,” helped her see how much the information she has researched is needed in today’s college climate, as well as at other levels of education for youth and adults.
“I just want to let people know that help is there for those who need it,” she said. “I had two friends in high school who suffered from severe anxiety and depression and I have watched my granny deal with bi-polar mental illness. After one speech at college, I had a young man come up afterwards and ask me where he could get help. We need to do better at connecting resources with the young people who need them, and make it an acceptable thing to ask for that help.”
Klaassen is studying psychology with a goal to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate so that she might pursue a career in teaching at the college level.
“I just love my college professor,” she said. “With my interest in dance and movement therapy, it all combines together with my platform. Music and dance can help those battling mental illnesses and we need education at a young level about what mental illness is and how we can help each other.”
Klaassen said she expected to be asked about the connection between today’s school shootings and mental illness but wasn’t during the pageant. However, she was asked how education could be improved. Her answer to that was simple.
“We need to pay teachers more,” she said. “We need more funding for mental illness education and we need quality teachers. Pay them more.”
Klaassen said tragedies like school shootings could be prevented by better mental health care.
“Nobody would shoot others if they were mentally sound,” she said.
To keep herself in good mental health, Klaassen said she enjoys having coffee with her friends at Steamy Joe’s when she is Arkansas City, and at the Starbucks at Tabor College in Hillsboro. She prefers her coffee black with little sugar.
At home with her family, Klaassen is a keen Mario Cart video game competitor with her younger brother, Pierce, and her older sister, Heidi. She plays tennis and took up running recently, hitting the treadmill for two or so miles per day while watching Netflix.
Klaassen, who started attending Miss Kansas pageants when she was 13, said she looks forward to traveling and working with school children during her reign as Miss Kansas.
“I’ve always wanted to be the girl others look up to as Miss Kansas,” she said. “This is a dream come true.”
Miss Kansas is a state preliminary to the Miss America Contest.