Courtesy of Haley Pontius
Many teens know that they want to make a difference in the world somehow, but it can be daunting to know where to start. But all you really need to get moving in the right direction is the inspiration to get involved with a big issue, and that's exactly what happened for Miss Teen International 2013, Haley Pontius. The star has become involved with the American Heart Association's mission to make hands-only CPR training courses mandatory in high schools across the United States – so teens everywhere feel like they're ready to handle emergencies if faced with a scary situation.
TWIST recently caught up with Haley, who shared that she had a lot of personal motivation to get involved with this project.
"It actually started when I was a little girl. My father was diagnosed with a heart disease called atrial fibrillation, which is a disease that causes the heart to beat very rapidly and erratically," Haley tells us. "At the time I didn't quite understand what was happening because I was so young, but once I was older and started to understand, I really wanted to make a difference."
"When my father was diagnosed, my whole world changed," Haley shares. "The fact is that heart disease doesn't just affect one person, it is a whole family affair. I started to research and began attending events for the American Heart Association. I even held my own fundraisers and interned for them. When I became Miss Teen International, I've had more opportunities to work with the AHA."
"I first got involved with hands-only CPR and this movement in the spring of 2014 because I was able to star in a nationally-televised PSA for the [organization] about it," Haley continues. "It was filmed in my school and we were able to get a lot of the students involved. It was really incredible, and ever since then, I've been really passionate about following this. It's really just about knowing what to do in case of an emergency, and it's so common for people to not react to a situation because they're afraid or confused about what to do."
In addition to Haley helping teens get educated on how to perform emergency CPR, she also says that she and her relatives have made their own big changes. "My family made a change in the way they live their lives. My father stopped smoking, we all lost weight, and we all began to eat healthier and exercise more often," she says. "By just taking those simple steps, my family, though we're dealing with [my dad's consistent heart disease] is so much healthier, happier, and stronger than we were before."
Are you inspired by Haley's mission? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.