Miss Georgia, Amanda Kozak, spoke to students at Effingham County Middle School about the importance of making good decisions Tuesday.
Kozak told the students that she had a hard time while she was growing up, and moved frequently due to her mother being in the military.
Kozak, who is from Warner Robins, said she decided she wanted a different life, and knew that education was the way to make that happen, but it was not easy.
She said she has difficulty with math, but strived and graduated from high school and college with honors.
“Everyone has a calling,” Kozak said. “I decided I wanted to be a teacher.”
She said she also decided she wanted to continue her education, and the Miss America system has helped her gain scholarships toward this.
“You have to decide now where you want to go,” Kozak, who was second runner-up at the 2007 Miss America pageant, told the students.
She said she likes to think about how things would be different if she had made other choices. Her example of a choice that would have changed where she is in her life would have been if she decided to smoke cigarettes.
She showed the students photos displaying the effects of smoking including teeth, lungs and a growth from cancer.
Kozak told the students they must be determined to reach their goals, and to not allow others to tell them what they can’t do.
“You are the drivers of you own life,” she said. “You have to make good decisions now.”