GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION
My mother always taught me that who I was associated with would have impact on how others perceived me. I decided early on I didn’t want to be guilty by association, but instead lead by example. I am a proud native Nevadan and growing up in Nevada I have had the privilege of knowing all of the incredible things that truly characterize what makes Nevada special.
As a former Miss Nevada, I was able to travel throughout our state and see first-hand what makes each of our communities unique and beautiful. Our diverse and stunning landscapes, opportunities for world class skiing and other outdoor sports, rich arts communities, and family friendly events are some of the many highlights in our state.
Sadly, during my year as Miss Nevada, I also came face to face with the reality that my love of Nevada was not shared by many people across the country. The reality was that as Miss Nevada, I had to encounter the fact that many places I went I was going to be asked questions about brothels and prostitution in Nevada. So much so that it was even a part of my training for public speaking and interviews to be able to discuss these topics. Unfortunately, many times I would be in an interview and I would try to express the wonderful things about Nevada only to be met with more questions and comments about prostitution in Nevada. I realized quickly that I was guilty by association simply by living in Nevada.
As an educator, I have also experienced how being from Nevada can be a black eye. I have traveled to other states for teaching conferences and have been a part of discussions about bringing educators to similar conferences in Nevada because we have so many wonderful venues and things to offer. Unfortunately, it is almost always brought up that Nevada isn’t the place to hold or attend these conferences because of the stigma that we carry. Worse, I have been encouraged to avoid telling people I am from Nevada when applying for grants or specialized certifications because that alone has proved to limit my chances of success.
Nevada not only proudly advertises “adult” themed entertainment, but also according to Education Week, an independent national news organization focusing on pre-K-12 education policy, its ranking of Nevada state public education is among the worst in the nation. If this combination is causing great educators to avoid our state for conferences, is it also causing great educators from considering employment here? This needs to change!
Fifteen years ago, I was Miss Nevada and my platform was “Ending Domestic Violence Among America’s Teenage Population and Teen Dating Violence”. Today I am a wife, a mother, and an educator. I am still fighting to end abuse of all types. I think it is time that we show the country that we are ready to redefine what it means to be a Nevadan by supporting legislation that puts Nevada closer to being ranked first in education. And, by supporting legislation that puts an end to domestic abuse and the sexual exploitation of any human being.
Christina O’Neil-Bourne, Master of Music Education (MME) Former Miss Nevada Educator Carson City, Nevada