Nurturing the Whole Student

July 15, 2019

Bailey Hodson of Berwick, Iowa, was within weeks of the Miss Greater Des Moines competition last January when her father passed away after a one-week illness. It was the second death to rock her world within a year. Her cousin had committed suicide 11 months prior. Hodson says the entire Grand View community helped her through both dark times. “Everyone let me know they were here to help,” she says. “I love that feeling of being cared for, of everyone wanting me to succeed both in and out of class.”

The English and secondary education major thought about dropping out of the competition. But she had entered for the scholarship opportunities and her family encouraged her to forge ahead. She did, and won, making her eligible for the Miss Iowa competition in June. There she was named first runner up and also received the Miss America State Academic Award and preliminary awards in evening gown and social impact initiative.

The paradox is that no one would suspect this strong, confident and articulate young woman was a victim of bullying in high school. She has battled depression and anxiety ever since. Hodson doesn’t know why she was singled out for the taunting. She only knows the daily barrage of name-calling and shoulder-chucking affected her deeply. “It was a constant battle in my mind. I kept wondering, ‘Why me? What am I doing wrong?’” It saddens her to know her cousin was struggling at the same time.“If I had known, maybe we could have helped each other,” she says. His death propelled Hodson to action. She participated in several area Out of the Darkness walks that encourage people with suicidal thoughts to open up about their struggles. In April, she helped organize Grand View’s walk, which raised $10,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Losing her cousin was also the wake-up call Hodson needed to get professional help. She credits Kenlyn Gordon of Grand View’s Counseling Center with helping her understand and manage her feelings. “I knew I didn’t want to go down the same road as my cousin, and I was fortunate to find the help I needed right on campus,” she says. Now trained and certified in bullying prevention techniques, Hodson uses her Miss Greater Des Moines platform to help others. She says sharing her own experiences makes her instantly relatable and students are more receptive to what she teaches them.

“Research shows anti-bullying techniques work. But they believe it even more because it’s coming from someone was once in their shoes. I want to make sure that when I leave, they have all the tools they need to defend themselves. I love empowering young people like that.”

Scholarship money from both pageants—including in-kind awards from Grand View—will help her complete her senior year of college, then she will return to the pageant circuit one more time. “All in God’s timing,” says Hodson.