| The Franklin News Post |
Miss Virginia visits Dudley Elementary

Chinah Helmandollar reminisces about her childhood at the school

As as a small girl, Chinah Helmandollar attended Dudley Elementary School in rural, eastern Franklin County.

When she was in the elementary grades, she was more interested in reading, writing, science, arithmetic and recess than in beauty and glamour.

Like her classmates, she was a typical elementary school girl who played soccer and participated in the Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) program.

Little did she dream that one day she would return to Dudley Elementary as the embodiment of female beauty and style.

But that day came Wednesday morning when Helmandollar returned to her childhood school as Miss Virginia.

She recalled her years in elementary grades at the school that is 15 miles from the nearest town.

There were hugs and tears as her former teachers greeted her. The Dudley teachers and staff had prepared a poster board with photographs of Helmandollar when she was a student at Dudley. They also had a Power Point presentation of photos of her elementary years.

Helmandollar reacted with excitement and almost tears when she saw the photos.

It is a long way from Dudley Elementary on Brooks Mill Road to the world of Miss Virginia and Chinah's trips to scores of schools across Virginia.

Helmandollar is the first Franklin County resident to serve as Miss Virginia.

Lisa Bowman, Dudley's principal, said Helmandollar's story should be an inspiration for every student at Dudley. If students master their academics and have good character, she said, they can achieve their dream like Helmandollar.

"That little girl who went to Dudley grew up and achieved her dream," Bowman said. "She became Miss Virginia."

Helmandollar told the Dudley students that she got her first taste of acting as a member of the Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) team at Dudley Elementary School.

"When I was at Dudley, I knew I wanted to be a performer," Helmandollar said.

Speaking to the Dudley students, Helmandollar encouraged the students to set goals and not be deterred. She urged the students to avoid drinking, doing drugs or smoking when they are in high school.

Helmandollar, 23, is a 2005 graduate of FCHS who grew up in Hardy.

She was a finalist in the Miss Virginia Pageant last summer and assumed the Miss Virginia title earlier this year after Miss Virginia 2009, Caressa Cameron, was crowned Miss America 2010.

Helmandollar gave her "Right Decisions Right Now" speech at the student assembly.

Helmandollar graduated from James Madison University last year with a degree in theater. She wants a career in children's theater and acting.

When she became Miss Virginia, she was doing an internship as an assistant to the producer of a movie being filmed on Smith Mountain Lake.

After her reign as Miss Virginia is over, she hopes to return as assistant to the producer and have an acting role in the movie.

Helmandollar is the daughter of Jan Helmandollar of Hardy and Ben Helmandollar of Salem.

She was the first Miss Greater Franklin County to place in the top 5 at the Miss Virginia Pageant and to win the preliminary Physical Fitness in Swimsuit award.

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