A Diamond in Coal Country
In 2019, County 17 is embarking on a new endeavor to spotlight those in our community who go above and beyond to make a difference; those shining stars, or diamonds in the rough that aren’t just surviving, but working to help themselves and others thrive in Campbell County.
Each month, we will bring you one of these stories. If you know someone who stands out in a crowd, feel free to send us their name and contact information at email@example.com.
Addison Treesh has had a busy year. Actually, now that she thinks about it, it’s been a busy last couple of years, beginning her sophomore year when she put her life on the fast track and has been zooming forward ever since.
It’s a Thursday morning, and 19-year-old Addison is sipping a coffee at the Local before heading over to Gillette College to sign up for classes for next term. In some ways, it’s weird being back in her hometown.
Last fall, she’d been an 18-year-old living in the dorms on the University of Wyoming campus. Her life promptly took a detour, when, on a whim, she decided to enter into the Miss USA pageant, quietly slipping away from Laramie one weekend to travel to Casper to compete. As the youngest contestant, she didn’t think she had a prayer of winning let alone making the top five, so was shocked when she not only made the cut but also ended up winning the crown.
Holding the title was a much bigger responsibility than she imagined as she was prepping for the national Miss USA competition, a requirement of winning Miss Wyoming, which ended up costing far more than she imagined with trainings and practice sessions all over the country on top of all her duties and events at home.
A lot goes into preparing for these competitions as she soon found out, so she ended up taking the semester off and moving home to live with her parents where she could work full-time to pay for all the various expenses and prep for the next pageant.
The decision to temporarily leave school was a hard one, but she figured classes could wait.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I wanted to live it to the fullest.”
She’s just returned home from the Miss USA pageant in Reno, Nevada, where at age 19, she was once again the youngest competitor. And though she didn’t make the top 15 finalists, she nonetheless had a couple of milestones. Meeting women from all over the country was amazing for the teenager from small-town Wyoming, and she even got picked out of the lineup – along with Miss Oklahoma – to dance in the choreographed performance in the front row, flanking rapper T-Pain.
“In a million years I never imagined myself dancing next to a famous rapper,” she said with a grin.
Once home, she also received a grand welcome from boyfriend Trey Hladky and his family, complete with a small box containing a tiny, male Pomeranian puppy in a blue bow from Trey that he’d named Reno, to commemorate the experience.
Now, with the Miss USA pageant under her belt, she’s got about two months left in her Wyoming reign before she has to hand over her crown in September, which is something she dreads.
“I’ve had such a great year,” she said with a wan smile. “I hate to see it all coming to an end.”
The pageant life has been a good one and isn’t anything like what most people think it is when they think of vacuous, bubbly girls who smile and preen without too much else going on in their brains. That stereotype cliché is something she’d like to see turned around. As far as she’s concerned, some of the most ambitious, smart, goal-oriented women she has met have been in the pageant world, where scholarships are awarded for winning.
“A lot of people don’t believe that,” she said. “They just focus on the negative stereotypes and see what they want to see.”
In fact, pageants are how she got interested in academics in the first place and really started pushing herself to do more in her community, volunteer, and be more productive and involved. She started competing in the eighth grade after some of her friends and family suggested she try out for Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen. A dancer for most of her life, she’d never done a beauty competition and wasn’t sure what to expect. She’d never considered herself a “girly girl,” for that matter, having grown up as a tomboy who hated wearing socks or combing her hair. Competing in pageants helped turn her from “a weird little kid into a girl,” she said.
As one of five teens in the pageant that year, she was the youngest of the group and the only one who had never competed, so she more or less winged it, and in the end, won. Along with the honor and the crown, the win also came with a $1,000 scholarship to UW, which according to Addison, opened a new door. Up to that point, college hadn’t really been a possibility without taking out a lot of loans. The scholarship made her rethink her goals, and if this money was waiting for her, there might be other scholarship opportunities out there, too.
As a student at Campbell County High School, she’d heard about BOCHES (Board of Cooperative Higher Education Services) program that provides students with a dual-enrollment opportunity to attend free college classes on top of their regular curriculum. If a student works hard, they are able to graduate from high school with a two-year associate’s degree at no cost to them.
She started asking questions about the program, and her dad even went with her to the school counselor to figure out how to get her signed up. By the summer of her sophomore year, she had taken her first college sociology class online and was hooked.
The next two years would be a whirlwind, between her regular classes, dance, volunteer work, part-time job, and classes at the college at night. During this time, she also joined DECA, an association for high school marketing and management students. Her senior year she won all three of her events at the state conference, earning a spot at the International Career Development Conference, where she was named among the top 15 percent business students in the world.
In order to fit it all in, something in her life had to go and she decided it was her social life. She thought about all the nights she spent with friends, dinners, and afternoons just hanging out, and decided those things would be waiting for her when she was done.
“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” she said. “I knew I needed to go for it and had to give up my social life.”
Some of her friends didn’t get it. And when other kids asked her about the dual-enrollment program and how she did it, they couldn’t comprehend the sacrifice of giving up parts of their social life just for school. That was a sticking point for a lot of students she talked to, many of whom didn’t consider the tradeoff worth the price of giving up their spare time. Only a handful of kids she knows have taken advantage of dual enrollment.
In 2018, she graduated from high school with her diploma and an associate’s degree in science and general studies.
In some ways, she feels more mature than a lot of other teenagers her age, which she credits to her pageant experience. Not only had it pushed her out of her comfort zone and made her more confident and ambitious, but it also opened doors to a bigger world that she was and still is determined to go explore.
Now back home in Gillette, she has her own apartment with Trey and is currently working full-time, dancing, and teaching dance. In August, she’ll once again be taking classes at UW online and at the Gillette campus. She’s about 40 hours away from getting her bachelor’s in marketing and management, at which point, she’ll think about what she wants to do next.
As for experiencing the life of a typical college student, that just doesn’t appear to be in her cards. And though she has a bit of a regret not to be returning to Laramie next year to live on campus like a traditional student, she’s content to keep exploring new opportunities and see where life goes. Maybe she’ll move to Los Angeles and audition as a backup dancer for a rapper or band? Maybe she’ll do some modeling, or try for another national pageant title? For now, she’s just enjoying these final months of summer, getting used to life on her own in Gillette, and hanging out with her new dog.