When Jenna Howlett, the recently crowned Miss Vermont Teen USA 2019, travels around the country to compete in pageants, the first question in the interview segment is always the same: “What’s it like to live on a farm?” And Jenna always responds: “It’s a lot of fun. I get to work with family, learn responsibility and time-management. I also get to meet new people through 4-H.”As comfortable in muck boots as she is in an elegant evening dress, Miss Vermont Teen USA is a proud member of the Cabot farm family. Click To Tweet
Jenna, who is 16, was raised the youngest of five girls on Champlainside Farm in Bridport, Vermont where her great-grandfather settled more than 70 years ago. When each of the girls turned eight years old, she’d get a calf to care for and could keep any heifers that cow went on to have, and so on. They were all taught how to drive a skid steer by around age eight. “You can’t ask for a better thing than to raise kids on the farm,” says her dad, Tim. “Farming offers an opportunity to apply effort and learning comes whether you succeed or fail.”
His youngest agrees wholeheartedly. But these days, she’s so busy in high school with academics and cheerleading—not to mention travel for pageant training and competition—that she mostly works on the farm during summers. “I recently learned how to drive the dump truck that catches silage from the chopper,” Jenna says proudly. “It was a little bit scary controlling such a big thing the first time, but I think I’ve got it down now.”
Not much seems to scare Jenna, who is also “the flyer” on her cheerleading squad, as in the one who gets thrown up in the air! “I’m a thrill-seeker,” she says with a laugh. “I like to get my adrenaline up.” The young woman exudes a quiet self-confidence but, she admits, it has not always been easy for her. Pageants have contributed to helping her find herself and, in her role as Miss Vermont Teen, she hopes to support other young people during their own tough times.
Over the five years Jenna has been involved in pageants, she’s traveled with her mother, Julie, to Boca Raton, Little Rock and Nashville. The competitions usually involve a personal interview with a selection committee and then active wear and evening gown segments, and, finally, on-stage questions for the finalists. “People don’t realize how much work it is to prepare and compete,” she says. Through training, particularly for the interview portion of the pageants, “I’ve learned more about myself and become more confident,” Jenna says.
In 2017, Jenna was first runner-up for Miss Vermont Teen USA and felt ready to win in the most recent competition. Still, when her name was announced, it took a few minutes for it all to sink in. “I know I’m now ready for such a big responsibility,” she says. “My reaction was not big until they put the crown on my head. Then it felt real. I worked for over a year for this. It shows hard work does pay off and dreams do come true.”
During her reign—and as she prepares to compete in the Miss Teen USA national competition—Jenna will promote her personal platform: “You’re My FFAV: Rising Above Bullying.” Her project comes out of her own experience being bullied starting when she was in fourth grade. “I want to teach every child that they can overcome bullying,” Jenna says. “I wanted to create a brand,” says the savvy young woman, explaining the acronym she has created. For her, family, faith, art and volunteering were key to getting through.
“I really want to talk to middle schoolers because I think that’s when you’re really learning who you are and who you’re going to be as a person,” Jenna says. She also hopes to take her message to school boards around the state to improve awareness of how teachers and other adults in schools can better help students who are being bullied.
While Jenna takes the responsibilities of her title very seriously, there are also just plain fun parts of her pageant involvement. She recently traveled to Austin, Texas to pick out the gown she will wear for the national competition. “I got to visit the headquarters of the most famous pageant dress designer, Sherri Hill,” Jenna says with excitement. “I was really fangirling over her.”
The teenager, whose favorite subject is math, thinks she might want to work in the fashion business. No matter what she ends up doing, Jenna Howlett is sure to go far, as comfortable behind the wheel of a farm truck as she is in an elegant evening gown.