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Teen uses her crown and sash to help others

Mar 28, 2017 04:03PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Natalie Stratton uses her position of pageant winner to educate the public about suicide prevention. (Cheryl Stratton)

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com 

Natalie Stratton, a junior at Taylorsville High School, has a zest for life that keeps her constantly trying new things, from crafts to sports. Busy as she is, service is always at the top of her to-do list.

 “I love doing service for people. It is my happy place,” she said. She has always loved giving away things she’s made to others and doing acts of service anonymously.  

To widen her opportunities to help others, she recently began participating in service-based pageants. For her platform, she chose to focus on mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

“I thought if I could get more word out there, we could stop some of these things from happening to kids; it doesn’t need to happen,” she said.

Stratton’s platform was inspired by personal experience. Five years ago, she rescued a good friend from a botched suicide attempt. Just two months later, there was a very public suicide by a fellow Bennion Junior High student. Stratton said she hadn’t known how to help her friends, so she learned the warning signs of suicide and completed certification for a program called QPR (Question Persuade Refer) at qprinstitute.com.

The confident Stratton enjoys public speaking. Because of her pageant titles, she has been able to reach more students, speaking at schools and community events.

“If you have a crown and a sash, it opens doors for you,” said her mother, Cheryl Stratton.

“It was really great to get out there and share my story and have people understand it’s a serious thing that they need to address now, or it’s going to only get worse,” Stratton said.

In just one year, Stratton has participated in several pageants, many with a focus on service, such as Crowns for Cause, where all proceeds were donated to pay the medical bills of someone living with MS. She also volunteered at the Miss Amazing Pageant, held for girls and women with disabilities.

Stratton won the Regal Majesty Utah County Preliminary Pageant but won’t make it to the state competition because of scheduling conflicts.

It’s no surprise considering her schedule. Stratton does, well—everything.

She spins yarn, knits and crochets, makes bobbin lace, tats, blacksmiths and welds.

At school, she is in Graces (the competitive girls’ choir), honors choir and concert choir. As a junior, Stratton is a half credit away from graduating by taking online classes during the summer.

She also plays the guitar, ukulele, piano, takes voice lessons and dances with a performing hula group.

She has participated in various sports—cheerleading, soccer, volleyball, gymnastics—and in theatrical plays at school and in the community.

“She’s a full-time job on Saturday,” said her mother.

“My schedule is very delicately balanced,” Stratton admitted.

Stratton’s goal is to become a civil engineer.

“I want to build things and make things with my hands,” she said.

Combining her love of service, working for a cause and using her hands, Stratton is currently preparing for a humanitarian aid trip. This summer, she will help build the first Safe House for abused women and children in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

“It’s been such an amazing experience getting ready for it that I can’t imagine how amazing it’s going to be to finally get to go there,” said Stratton.

The two-and-a-half-week trip is costly for a junior who recently had to quit her job coaching gymnastics and whose father is a school teacher

While fundraising efforts have not been very successful, (one was cancelled due to an attempted suicide by a classmate who was planning to help), Stratton was fortunate to find a donor.

Remaining costs are related to plane tickets and extra baggage fees for donations she’d like to take with her. She continues to request donations via her GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/284fh3eg.

 “I have found that serving other people is the best way to forget about yourself,” said Stratton, who hopes to blog about her journey and inspire others to seek opportunities to give service.

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