Stillwater grad named Miss North Dakota

Lizzie Jensen uses title to fight bullying

Lizzie Jensen, a 2012 graduate of Stillwater Area High School, became Miss North Dakota last month. (Photo by Tessie Jones Photography)

A Stillwater Area High School alumna who overcame childhood bullying is using the title of Miss North Dakota to give students hope.

Lizzie Jensen, 23, was initially named first runner-up in this year’s Miss North Dakota pageant, but when winner Cara Mund went on to be crowned Miss America last month, Jensen inherited the state title.

Jensen competed in the pageant on the platform “#IAmMore,” and is using her position to share the story of how she overcame bullying.

“I created my platform because I was bullied, actually, throughout my years of going to Stillwater — for almost 10 years,” she said. “So I talk about my struggle with being bullied, how I was able to overcome it.”

She also speaks to people who are bullies.

“Instead of pointing the finger at them and saying, ‘You’re a bad person,’ I let them know, ‘Hey, you can rise above this,’” Jensen said. “A lot of times when people are bullying, it’s because there’s an underlying issues with them that has yet to come to the surface.”

After graduating high school in 2012, Jensen moved to Fargo to attend North Dakota State University, but removed herself from school after two years to focus on her mental health. She said it was the best choice she could have made, saying it helped her become “the best version” of herself. She’s now a student at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, working toward becoming a surgical assistant.

She started competing in pageants about three years ago, at the urging of a friend.

“She was doing it, and they needed contestants for their next pageant, so I decided to give it a shot, and I ended up winning,” Jensen said.

“There’s a lot more than people really see,” Jensen said of the road to winning a pageant. “It’s hundreds of hours of volunteering within your community. We constantly are staying up to date on all the political news an all current events. We strengthen our platform and we speak about our platform.”

As Miss West Fargo, Jensen visited area schools to share her story with students. She made her first school appearance as Miss North Dakota on Oct. 3.

“I have a program for elementary school, middle school and high school, and I also have a program for parents and adults,” she said.

During the presentations, she tells her story, including details of why she was bullied and how she was affected by mental illness, including an eating disorder.

She also shares how she overcame the bullying by becoming involved in music at her church, Trinity Lutheran in Stillwater, and by using gymnastics as an outlet for her frustrations.

“The reason I’m so vulnerable with the students is to help them understand it’s OK to discuss your struggles,” Jensen said. “If you don’t explain what was going on within those struggles, no child is going to be able to relate to you as well as if you fully put yourself out there.”

She has seen the impact on students’ lives.

“I’ve actually had two students who said, ‘I was actually going to kill myself that day, but because of you and your presentation, you saved my life,’” Jensen said.

Jensen hopes to use her platform as Miss North Dakota to reach more students, teachers and parents; to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals; and to advocate for stronger anti-bullying measures in North Dakota.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]