A visit from royalty

REED CITY – Even through the death of a loved one, Angela Venditti rose to royalty.

The newly crowned 2012 Miss Michigan shared her story with students from Eagle Village, a center for troubled youth with behavioral or emotional problems, during the center’s 2012 Eagle’s Pride celebration Wednesday.

“I had a cousin who was my same age - she was 20 - who died of a herione overdose,” Venditti told Eagle Village youth.

Her cousin turned to drugs after struggling with her mother’s cancer diagnosis. After the addiction spiraled out of control, Venditti “lost a friend.”

The experience led Venditti to her philanthropy as Miss Michigan - keeping kids off drugs.

“We all go through hard things in our life and it’s about what you can do with it,” Venditti said. “When you can take that and make it into something that can help other people, it can be really incredible.”

The top 22 best-behaved residents out of 53 at Eagle Village attended a dinner with Miss Michigan at Pere Marquette in Reed City.

“The entire pageant organization builds up young women and the young women we have on campus see her as a role model,” said Lisa Spaugh, Eagle Village marketing and recruitment specialist. “We had a couple of young ladies in tears today because they were so excited to meet a young woman who is easily just a few days older than them, but represents something that they could achieve.”

Kara Pennington, an Eagle Village participant, was one of the top-behaved students who attended the dinner and said she

had anticipated meeting Miss Michigan for a while.

“Some of the girl houses got to go to the pageant for Miss Teen Michigan, and ever since then I’ve been excited to meet the real Miss Michigan,” Pennington said.

The new Miss Michigan has visited the center for four years, but this year the visit happened to fall on a special day.

The dinner was the final event in the Eagle’s Pride celebration, a day of photo shoots and pampering to boost the students’ confidence and give them a positive memory to take when they leave Eagle Village.

Matt Yeoman, of Yeoman Photography and members of the Big Rapids Photography Club took pictures of each of the students, and volunteers styled the girls’ hair and applied their makeup. Venditti also spent time with the teens during the photo shoot before being the keynote speaker at the dinner. Each teen will receive a disk with their photos.

“Eagle’s Pride at Eagle Village is an opportunity for every one of our young people to feel special,” Spaugh said.

Formal clothing was donated to the girls to wear to the dinner with Miss Michigan, sponsored by South Park Homes and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

After sharing her story, Venditti encouraged the students to do their best while at Eagle Village.

“Anything you can do to improve yourself is only going to help you when you go on in life,” Venditti said.

The Eagle’s Pride celebration takes place twice a year at Eagle Village.