From a young age, Cierra was always engrossed in a book and was drawn to the transformative power of storytelling. She loved how stories enabled her to travel many places, challenged her thoughts about the world, and allowed her to engage with human experience. Since then, she has dedicated her life to not only sharing her own story as a source of inspiration and perseverance, but also encourages others to recognize the power in their own voices.
As Miss New Jersey 2014, Cierra traveled the East Coast speaking on behalf of her platform, "Empowering Today's Youth through Arts Education" and promoted an arts empowerment campaign to over 3,000 elementary, middle, and high school students in over 30 schools to open a dialogue about leadership and empowerment through involvement in extracurricular activities. Born with a physical disability, a survivor of sexual assault, and a first generation college student, Cierra uses the various pieces of her story to dismantle the stereotypes that surround women of color and motivate young people to use situations of adversity as a tool to share their stories to propel societal change. At the 2015 Miss America pageant, Cierra was named one of the top nine finalists for the Quality of Life award and is featured on the Miss America interview DVD.
After her retirement from pageantry, Cierra continued to book speaking engagements and was invited to serve on panels to discuss her unique experiences. She was selected as a Women's History Month panelist at YouthBuild Charter School in Philadelphia, was the keynote speaker at the 6ABC Community Advisor Board Black History Month Celebration, and was invited to speak at the United States Department of Education about her research on girls of color. She has been a sought-after public speaker at universities and colleges, churches, conferences, local and national organizations, roundtables and more.
Sample speaking topics
Storytelling as a Strategy to Encourage Social Justice Conversations
Using Difference to Make a Difference
Harnessing the Power of Extracurricular Activities
The Importance of Arts Education for All
Social Change and Leadership
Take Care of Your Self-ie: How to Love Yourself in an Instant Glorification Age
College and Career Planning
Mark conference 2015
"Using Difference to Make a Difference"
At the annual Mark Conference at Rutgers University, Cierra was invited to share her story of how she became the second woman of color to secure the title of Miss New Jersey and overcome adversity to break barriers as a role model and advocate.
What can you learn from listening to another person's story? According to social justice educator Cierra Kaler-Jones, everything. Hear her detail how sharing stories can promote common ground in social justice discussions and create a more equitable society.
Photo credit: Richard Krauss