FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A Florence native is wearing a very important crown while representing her home state.

Gracie Arnold, 15, is balancing school, getting ready to apply for college and being a part of the Miss South Carolina program as the newly crowned Miss South Carolina Teen Volunteer.

The pageant organization is a service-oriented scholarship program that seeks to empower young women across the state. There are five points on the crown she wears, one representing each letter in the acronym “SERVE” — scholarship, education, responsibility, volunteerism and empowerment.

Arnold has created her own organization called Angel Kisses.

“When I was a little girl, I used to get picked on for my freckles, and I would come home crying,” Arnold said. “My mom would tell me that I was kissed by thousands of angels, and so once I got a little older, I started going into kindergartens and elementary schools and really just instilling kindness in them at a young age.”

Arnold was crowned a little less than two months ago, and while she wears a glittering crown, she’s still just a normal girl.

“Right after I won, I had to kind of calm down and do my summer reading project and get back in the mode for school,” she said.

Arnold grew up doing musical theatre. As for what’s next, she wants to combine her love for music and volunteering to become a music therapist.

“I’ve always kind of had a heart for little kids,” Arnold said. “I am a tee ball coach with my dad, so I get to coach baseball every spring, and my job is working with little kids. I get to do birthday parties and dress up as a Disney princess and sing, which is such a ‘Gracie’ job, my friends say.

“Once I found out what music therapy was, it really kind of drew me. I still love NYU. That’s always been a dream school of mine, and they actually do have a music therapy program there. So, hopefully, I’ll get in. I’m really, I’m working really hard.” 

Arnold said she remembers being a little girl and looking up to the older girls who wore the crown. She said what drives her today is inspiring those little girls who now look up to her.

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Taylor Maresca is the weekend morning anchor and morning reporter at News13. She joined the team in June 2022 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Taylor is from Houston. Follow Taylor on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.