When asked by a first-grade student at Wycallis Elementary School why she wears a crown atop her head, Bryn Harvey, current Miss Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and contestant for Miss Pennsylvania, replied, “I wear this crown because I’m proud of the things it represents.”
One of those things, she told the crowd of students gathered around her in the gym during a presentation, is community service. She explained that means “helping people” and asked what they like to do to help others. She then praised their answers — everything from “giving somebody a bandage when they get hurt,” to “If somebody gets lost, I’ll help them find their parents.”
The 24-year-old Trucksville resident held captive the attention of the young audience during June 2 presentation, first reading to them two picture books themed on self-esteem, then leading them in a few fun zumba dances and finally sitting down to answer their questions, of which they had many.
Another student asked what she likes to do to help people.
For Harvey, that list is a long one.
Since first getting involved in the Miss America organization as a teen in 2007, and after being elected Miss Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last October, one way she served is by visiting countless classes like the Wycallis Elementary first-graders, spending time with them. She works as a zumba instructor at Big Bear Fitness in Dallas, where she enjoys using her abundance of energy to encourage others to have fun while working out.
But her main passion, the platform of her Miss Pennsylvania campaign, is breast cancer prevention, awareness and support.
This, she wrote in an essay for the pageant, “was initially inspired by the six women in my family that have battled, lost their life to, or are now surviving breast cancer. I was sixteen years old when my Grandma Lois’ life was taken by breast cancer after a twenty-year fight. However, I celebrate her life and the fact that my other Grandma, Ma Ginny, is now a ten-year breast cancer survivor.”
Harvey had her own breast cancer scare in 2010, when she discovered a benign tumor while performing a self-breast check, resulting in surgery to remove it.
“For all these reasons,” she continued in the essay, “it is now my life goal to educate people about preventative methods, spread awareness of this disease that is affecting 1 in 8 women around the world, and provide support for victims and families before, during and after breast cancer.”
Harvey graduated from Wyoming Seminary, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Shenandoah Conservatory, Shenandoah University, Virginia, and is currently entrolled at Marywood University to earn a Masters in Communication Arts.
She is an active volunteer at The Center for Cancer Wellness-Candy’s Place and has promoted awareness as a guest speaker, host and spokesperson for events with the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Pucks with Pros, Beads of Courage, Penguins Hockey’s Pink in the Rink, The Mary Kay Ash Foundation, Zumbathon Party in Pink and more.
She co-created a bi-annual fundraising program Cabaret for Cancer, through which she was honored with the opportunity to witness Governor Tom Corbett’s signing of the new Dense Breast Notification Act, as well as appear on live question and answer panels with oncologists.
“The crazy fact,” she said, “is that every single person has cancer cells already in them. So it’s how you treat your body, how you eat, how you exercise, that prevents those cells from rapidly duplicating and spreading throughout the rest of the body. And I think that’s a fact that not a lot of people know. So that’s my main message.”
She added nutrition, diet, exercise, avoiding toxic substances and knowing your family history are all important things to consider regarding cancer prevention in general.
Although she felt the topic of cancer inappropriate for such a young audience, Harvey said the theme of her presentation to the Wycallis Elementary first graders tied in with her platform, in that it promotes self-esteem and exercise and leads to a “more healthy and successful future as an adult.”
“I love kids,” she said. “And I think there is a huge epidemic of low self-esteem and a lot of kids just not loving themselves. I think it has to do with a lot that they say in the media and not meeting standards of the world. …so I like to start at a young age encouraging a love of the uniqueness of each child, building a little bit of a fun exercise program into what I speak about.”
Harvey is hopeful of a win in her last shot at the Miss Pennsylvania title this week, as next year she will be over the age limit to compete. She said the best part of the program is the opportunities it allows her to promote her platform to a wide range of audiences, which sometimes proves a challenge as well. One morning she may be interacting with a large group of first-graders and that night speaking to an audience of adults at a cancer awareness and prevention fundraising event.
But it’s the challenges, she said, that help her become a better person.
“I think that this year I’ve done a lot of personal growth,” she said, “and through this organization, through all the appearances, I’ve become such a strong mental and physical person. I feel ready to take on Miss Pennsylvania, and even Miss America. I feel so ready.”
If she wins the title, Harvey, daughter of Jay Harvey, dean at Wyoming Seminary and Judy Harvey, youth director at Fellowship Church, and sister of Zac Harvey, 21, and Tyler Harvey, 19, won’t be the first in her family — or even from the Back Mountain — to carry the honor. Her aunt, Gina Major, of Dallas, was the first Miss Pennsylvania from NEPA in 1984 in the 90-year history of the Miss America Foundation.
Other past regional honorees, according to Major, include Katerina Sitaris, of Wilkes-Barre, 1987; Linda O’Boyle, of DuPont, 1991; Judy Fitch, of Dallas, 1992; and Shannon Doyle, of Wilkes-Barre, 2009.