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Subject: Dare to dream Former Miss Teen USA speaks about goals to area students

ERIN SNELGROVE,esnelgrove@newsreview.info
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Date Posted: 02/25/05 1:00:04pm

February 23, 2005

Tami Farrell likes to think big.

During the next five years, the native Oregonian wants to act in a feature film and a television pilot. She wants to own two restaurants, have her own record label, attend cooking school and learn how to be a master chef.

These dreams may sound ambitious to some, but Farrell, who was named Miss Teen USA 2003, is already well on her way. Farrell spoke to about 10 Douglas County middle schools Tuesday and today about the importance of goal setting. Her appearance was a part of the Celebration of Literacy program, which concludes this weekend.

"When I tripped, I laughed at myself," Farrell said about competing for the crown. "I was who I was."

Farrell, 20, grew up in Phoenix, near Medford. A self-proclaimed tomboy, she vied for the Miss Teen Oregon title over the span of her high school career.

The first time she participated, Farrell said, she felt like Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality." She was nervous and klutzy in front of the judges. Much the same happened the next year, so that by the time she was a senior, she decided the pageant scene wasn't for her.

But her family and friends convinced her not to give up. This time around, Farrell said, she just had fun. Despite getting into a car accident on the way to the Miss Teen Oregon Pageant, staining her dress and arriving with platinum blond hair because of a bad dye job, she stayed true to herself.

The judges liked it, and she won as a result. The same happened when she later took the coveted Miss Teen USA title.

"I had fun at the pageant," Farrell said. "I won Miss Congeniality and Miss Teen USA."

Reading, Farrell said, is a big part of her daily life. Now attending acting school in Los Angeles, Farrell said she spends a good chunk of her evenings readings scripts for films and television series. It's a talent, she said, that is needed in any career -- even for professional athletes.

"You need to know how to read contracts," she said to a John C. Fremont seventh-grader who wants to become a basketball player. "I want to know who's getting my money, because they get a percentage of what I do."

Farrell also spoke about the importance of overcoming challenges during her presentation. For her, this includes a heart ailment that prevents her from participating in sports. She could feel sorry for herself, she said, but she knows there are a lot of people out there whose health problems are much more serious. Instead, she chooses to be happy.

This philosophy made a strong impression on Olivia Redmond, a Fremont seventh-grader. She said she was impressed by Farrell, and that she too has aspirations of becoming an actress. The most important thing she learned from Farrell's speech, Redmond said, is to never let anything get in the way of one's dreams.

"I learned that you need to believe in yourself," she said. "Don't believe that others are better than you."

Maxine Durst of Roseburg holds this same conviction. A member of Altrusa International, Durst helped coordinate the Celebration of Literacy events this year. She said she's excited with the response she's had from students during the past week, and she believes Farrell's message is an important one for people to hear.

More than anything, she said, she wants students to know that reading is key to achieving success.

"I think that if they dream big enough and work toward that dream, they can succeed at anything they want," she said.

* You can reach reporter Erin Snelgrove at 957-4208 or by e-mail at esnelgrove@newsreview.info.

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