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Miss International 2011
Ciji Dodds
I've just been named an official ambassador for Malaika for life, which is a nonprofit aimed at eradicating Malaria.  http://malaikaforlife.org/.

When I was crowned Miss International® on July 30, 2011, in Skokie, Illinois, I was stunned. Humbled by being chosen out of a group of talented, intelligent and dedicated women, at that very moment I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would dedicate every minute of my reign to advancing the cause of literacy and promoting the empowerment of women and young girls.I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity and it is my sincerest hope that I can be a blessing to others.

My family is my greatest support system. My mom and dad have pushed and encouraged me, telling me how much they believe in me every step of the way. My parents instilled in me the values of hard work, integrity and above all else, faith in God. My brother has been my greatest ally and confidante. Sustained by their unconditional love, I know that there is nothing that I cannot achieve.

I am a proud Tar Heel. The sky is not “sky blue”. In my world, it is Carolina Blue. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, specializing in broadcast journalism. I then attended Howard University School of Law, where I received my J.D., graduating cum laude.I currently practice law in D.C. and Maryland.

From a very early age, I was taught to value education. I loved school because I loved learning. My world, was a world of books. Most kids spent their allowance on toys or candy. I spent my allowance on books. But, like most children I took my education for granted. My wake up call came when I lost a close friend of mine; her mother unknowingly signed away her parental rights because she could not read. At that second, I learned to appreciate my education and developed a passion for promoting literacy.

Literacy is an essential life skill that is the gateway to a better future and stronger families. Currently, close to 1 billion people around the world can't read. In the U.S. about 20% of adults read at or below an eighth grade level. Children without access to books are less likely to develop the skills that they need to become literate adults, thus perpetuating a cycle of illiteracy that leads to low self esteem, poverty and dependence.

I believe that ending illiteracy starts with something so small, yet so big as a child's first book. As Miss International® and in partnership with First Book I will work to break the cycle of illiteracy.

I am excited about promoting the American Heart Society's Go Red for Women movement. There is no better way to empower women and young girls than to give the tools necessary to take control of their health.

Thank you for allowing me to be your Miss International®. I hope to make you proud.