On Saturday, July 8, Ella Kate Nichols of Andalusia, Alabama, was named the 2024 Miss Shelby County at the Shelby County Arts Council. Ella Kate, 20, is a junior at Auburn University and is majoring in human development and family science with a minor in music business. She is a member of the Auburn University Singers, the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Student Recruiters, the Auburn University Dance Marathon, the Auburn University Gospel Choir, the College of Human Sciences Student Ambassadors and the Dean’s Student Advisory Council. Here, she offers her gratitude for being named Miss Shelby County 2024 and her plans to advocate for her platform moving forward. 

How did you feel being named Miss Shelby County 2024?

I was shocked! It was such a fun day alongside some of the best girls in the state of Alabama, and I am honored to have the chance to represent them and this community at Miss Alabama. All of us were having a blast together the entire day, talking about anything and everything. I don’t have a memory from that day where I wasn’t laughing or grinning from ear to ear!

What was your favorite part of the Miss Shelby County 2024 competition?

For the talent portion, which was one of my favorite aspects of the competition, I sang “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel. I have been singing since I could talk, and this is one of my favorite songs written by my favorite artist. I felt honored to have performed it.

What platform did you run on for Miss Shelby County, and why is this initiative important to you?

My community service initiative is Buckets of Smiles: Advocating for Children with Cancer. Buckets of Smiles is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that I founded when I was 15 years old to meet the immediate needs of childhood cancer patients. I deliver hospital-approved activity items to childhood cancer patients in local hospitals, as well as across the country through the Buckets of Smiles Ambassador Program. Buckets of Smiles and its mission have always been so important to me because I have seen firsthand the impact something like this can have on a patient. In 2012, I met a girl named Tori who was fighting Medulloblastoma, which is a form of cancer on the brain stem. She and I became such quick friends, and I was able to see through her what it was like to be a childhood cancer patient. This was a chance encounter that has changed me forever and has clearly shown me what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life.

What are your future career aspirations?

After I graduate from Auburn, I plan to become a Child Life Specialist at a Children’s Hospital. As a Child Life Specialist, I will be the middleman between patients and their families and the medical staff. I will be working closely with donation assistance, and I will help explain to patients what is going on in a way that they understand, in order to ensure they are fully informed. In my field, I’ll be helping kids forget for just a second what they are having to go through.

What words of encouragement would you like to share with other aspiring young women entering adulthood?

The Miss America organization has shaped me into the woman I am today. Not only has it helped pay for my college, but it has also given me life-changing skills and friendships that you cannot put a price tag on. By instilling the lessons that the Miss America Opportunity has imparted on me to other young women, I hope to inspire a community full of leaders, who are hungry for change.