Krystian Leonard has many titles, high school student, Miss Northern West Virginia, public speaker, author, but more importantly, founder. Just a junior in high school, Leonard is the founder of the nonprofit organization Shining S.C.A.R.S., developed as an outreach to help people dealing with visible scars.
At the age of 6, Leonard had her first surgical procedure that left her with a 9-inch scar. After a revision surgery, and a preventative one to remove a large birthmark, she was left with more scarring. As a result, she was bullied in school and called names, such as Frankenstein. She says that even after a scar heals, “it still carries with it the stigma of a monstrous character unworthy of social acceptance, let alone beauty.”
She said a change came in the way she thought of her scars when she was 10 years old and Miss West Virginia, at the time, visited her school. She showed Leonard that she should always believe in her dreams, and that year she decided that when she grew up she would be Miss West Virginia. Her pageant journey began from there and Shining S.C.A.R.S. was created after she learned she needed a platform statement to compete in the Miss America pageant system.
Through her nonprofit, Leonard has met many children with scars of their own and shared her experiences with her scars to show it is possible to overcome social stigmas. The name of her organization was chosen to reflect just that, the acronym stands for Strength and Character, showing I have Accepted who I am and prove I can Rise above the Stigma. She wants to reach as many people as possible and let them know that, “Scars are a reminder that we are stronger than before and we have within ourselves the strength and ability to overcome all obstacles.” To spread that message, she wrote a book that she donates to children’s hospitals, titled Shining Scars.
Leonard’s was recently recognized by United States Senator Joe Manchin III for her selfless dedication to helping others. She will be a keynote speaker for TEDx Boca Raton on May 9th, and an essay she wrote about her story will be included in the second edition of Contagious Optimism, Book 2, to be released in the autumn of this year. Meanwhile, she will continue donating her time to various organizations, including the Humane Society and Salvation Army.