Courtney Wages has been competing for Miss Kansas for the last four years. Every year, her service initiative has stayed the same: One Vision is Not the Only Vision. On June 10th, 2023, after a full week of networking, interviews, panels and talent portions, Courtney was announced as the winner, making her Miss Kansas 2023.
Courtney is the Community Outreach Manager for Envision, and a nonprofit leader in the community. She has a bachelor’s degree in musical theater and dance from Wichita State University. Through college, she became involved in student government, was an adjunct tap teacher, choreographer for musicals, taught dance classes at Midwest Dance Mechanics and Andover Dance Academy, and was a Delta Gamma, a sorority on campus.
How did Courtney become passionate about vision, and how did she get connected to Envision’s mission to serve people who are blind or visually impaired?
“In grade school, I had a friend named Hannah who had a vision impairment, and that relationship sparked my interest in serving people who have vision loss. Then, when I attended Wichita State University and went through Greek life, I gravitated to Delta Gamma because their philanthropy was Service for Sight. It reminded me of Hannah, and I joined as a sorority member. Delta Gamma works closely with Envision, often volunteering for programs and events. I did a lot of volunteering for Envision programs through Delta Gamma, one of my favorites being Heather’s Camp, a summer camp for children ages 7-18 who are blind or visually impaired. Then, during my second year of competing for Miss Kansas with my service initiative, and through my community advocacy, Envision wanted to bring me on full time,” said Wages.
As Community Outreach Manager for Envision, Courtney gives presentations regarding low vision at schools and throughout the community and promotes Envision services through our Child Development Center, Envision Arts Program, and our Low Vision Rehabilitation Center. She also leads planning efforts for major Envision fundraising events such as our annual Golf Fore Vision tournament and our Evening with Envision Gala.
Courtney started running for Miss Kansas in 2018 as Miss Black and Gold. She ran the next year as Miss Emerald City, then Miss Air Capitol, and in 2023 ran as Miss Southern Kansas.
“My family is very service led and I have volunteered for things for as long as I can remember, all the way back to age 6. My mom was a youth pastor, and I did many service projects and volunteering all through my childhood and through high school. My sorority sister was the one who encouraged me to sign up for Miss Black and Gold. I remember wearing my high school prom dress and doing a dance routine I had known from high school. Little did I know that would be the start of many great opportunities for me,” said Wages.
When asked why she is passionate about living a life of service, Wages said “I just love helping people and meeting people where they are, and figuring out how I can make life easier to navigate for them. I am extroverted and love meeting new people.”
“I remember the moment on stage when my name was called as the winner. I was so tired, I collapsed to the ground because it was such a relief and I had been waiting so long for that moment. After I won and was escorted to and finished the VIP reception, I drove at midnight to get a large diet coke and a cheeseburger and tator tots! I just remember being so hungry and exhausted, but just feeling like I could finally breathe again because I had succeeded at my goal. I think I am a living example that hard work and determination can really get you somewhere and that finding success in your failures is what leads you to greatness.”
Courtney’s favorite moment of the 2023 competition was doing her tap dance talent portion. “Many people don’t realize it, but tap is the one type of dance method that people who are blind or visually impaired can hear.”
When asked what her goals are as Miss Kansas, Wages said “I really want to leave a legacy behind, especially because I am the first Miss Kansas to advocate for low vision awareness and will be the first title holder to advocate for it on the Miss America stage. I want to expand the reach of my service initiative and bring more awareness and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired.”