After spending a year seeing the world as Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers is now settling back in to being Sarah Rose Summers again.
Her whirlwind tour as Miss USA ended earlier this month when she crowned Cheslie Kryst as the 2019 Miss USA.
It was an experience Summers, a 2013 Papillion-La Vista South graduate, will always carry with her.
“I got to see the world,” Summers said.
“When I look back at all the things I’ve done, I’m very thankful for smart phones and all the photos and videos I was able to take because when you’re schedule is go-go-go, you don’t have time to soak it all in.”
Not only did Summers’ travels take her around the country she was representing, but also to places where she gained an entirely new perspective on life.
One of those places was a hospital in Mexico City where they performed surgeries on children with cleft lips through a charity group, Smile Train.
“I visited a lot of children’s hospitals, but going to Mexico City was very eye-opening,” she said. “There was one family with a 3-year-old boy and they traveled 16 hours by bus just to visit the clinic, then had to make two more trips for surgery and follow-up. There was another woman who got to see her daughter smile for the first time. Smile Train definitely makes a difference in peoples lives.
“I like visiting children’s hospitals because I want to bring joy and awareness into their lives.”
While she may have felt at home around children, that wasn’t necessarily the case for every event she went to.
“One of my first red carpet events was this fashion show in New York City,” she said. “They’re asking me what I think of all these different designs and I tell them I’m from Nebraska, so I’m not really sure. But I was excited to be there.”
Summers had the opportunity represent the USA in the Miss Universe Pageant in December in Thailand, where she finished in the top 20.
“That was such a unique experience,” she said. “There is no other platform like that where you have 95 women from all different countries get together and share stories and meals and laugh together. It was a beautiful experience and I was proud to represent both the U.S. and Nebraska.”
Now comes a new chapter for Summers, who is planning on remaining in New York City for the next year.
“I’ve got a year lease, and we’ll see where it goes from there,” she said. “It’s different to not having everything planned out for me.”
While her schedule has opened up, there won’t be many idle days for Summers.
Along with continuing work with her many projects, she is also starting a podcast called “More than a Crown” in which she will talk about her life beyond Miss USA and interview several people she met along the way.
“I’m so passionate about the need to speak your voice,” she said. “As Miss USA, I was able to have a voice and I want to continue using it.”
She’s also got a wedding to plan this fall after her longtime boyfriend, Connor Combs, proposed to her the same day as the Miss Universe Pageant.
While New York City will be her home for the immediate future, she does plan several returns to her hometown.
“I’m going to be back frequently,” she said. “I’ve got my brother’s 30th birthday party in July and I always try to make it to at least one Nebraska football game each year.”
Her reign as Miss USA may have only lasted a year, but it was years of volunteer work and helping others that paved the way for Summers to reach her dream.
“My advice to any girl who wants to be Miss USA would be to start volunteering if you haven’t already,” she said. “It’s about building yourself and volunteering is so crucial. It’s how people keep their feet on the ground.
“I would also tell them to not worry about comparisons to others because comparison is the thief of joy. If you start comparing yourself, you find out you’re either superior or inferior, and neither of those are good.”
As she reflects back on a year only a select few have had the opportunity to live, she looks forward to where her next journey will take her.
“I grew a lot,” she said. “I’m only 24, so I’ve got so much more life to live.”