FLOYDS KNOBS — As Alexis Lete visited Floyds Knobs Elementary School Wednesday, it was of special significance. She used to be a student there, but this week, she was a guest speaking to youth about her role as Miss Indiana USA 2020.
Lete, who is a New Albany High School graduate, visited the elementary school during its morning announcements and spoke to students in the classroom of her former kindergarten teacher, Janna Schaefer. She is representing Indiana in the Miss USA pageant, which takes place in May.
At New Albany High School, Lete was a varsity athlete competing in both volleyball and swimming, and she received a full-ride athletic scholarship to George Washington University, where she studied communications and broadcast journalism. She graduated from the university in 3-and-a-half years, and now, in addition to performing her duties as Miss Indiana USA, works in acting, modeling and social media content creation.
As she visited Schaefer's classroom, she talked about her own experience as Miss Indiana USA, and she asked the kindergartners about their dream jobs, which ranged from paleontologist to firefighter, and talked about some steps to help them achieve their goals.
"I think something that's easy for kids to understand is, what's your dream, and what do you know about your dream to make it happen?" Lete said. "So once they think about that, they're like 'oh,' do I know enough about this to make this my dream, and what am I doing to make this happen, because as soon as you start thinking about what you want to do, the more successful you're going to be."
It felt amazing to be back in her former elementary school and to revisit her former teachers, including Schaefer, she said.
"I was welcomed so warmly, and it felt great to have my teachers remember me so vividly," Lete said.
Schaefer was excited when she learned that her former student was visiting the school, and she is impressed with Lete's accomplishments. She remembers her as a competitive athlete even in kindergarten, and she was always "such a sweet and helpful girl," she said.
"It's very heartwarming to see how successful she's become," she said.
As Miss Indiana USA, one of Lete's main social causes is female empowerment and breaking the glass ceiling in male-dominated fields. Through her platform, she also hopes to inspire confidence in young people and spread messages of kindness.
"I've been experiencing so many different life situations where there's someone that people exclude or exile, and they don't know their background story, they don't know what that person has been through," Lete said. "And if we had compassion for everyone and were open to just being kind to each other, the world could be a great place."
Lete said she has been inspired by the response she has received from the community.
"I realized I have so much support here in Southern Indiana," she said. "After I won, I came back, and people were just reaching out to me, and I felt so much love, and people were asking, 'how can I help? How can I help your mission, and what can I do.'"