Kimberly Szabo is named Miss Chestnut Hill 2021
Class of 2017
Kimberly Szabo ’17 is determined to make a difference with everything she does.
Szabo makes a very real difference in the lives of many through the healing power of music.
With a passion for singing from a young age, Szabo searched for a way to use her passion to help others. Music therapy was a perfect fit.
Many paths and concentrations exist within the field, and Szabo originally saw herself working with people who had special needs, intellectual disabilities, and physical disabilities. An internship in hospice changed all that for her.
“My internship, which was with hospice, fell into my lap, and I absolutely loved it,” said Szabo.
Szabo loved the experience so much that she has dedicated her career to it. She currently works at VITAS Health Care, a nationwide hospice company, in the Philadelphia program. Despite her being the only one in the program, she said the love for what she does makes the workload worth it.
Hospice can be an emotionally trying area of music therapy, but Szabo said the good created outweighs the grim circumstances.
“Hospice is very rewarding because you’re able to be a part of a person’s life and be there to support them through such a hard time,” said Szabo. “I find it very rewarding and humbling that the family wants you to be there. To some people, I’m a complete stranger meeting them for the first and last time, but when they say how much of an impact the music had… they’re really appreciative, and it really fills your heart.”
Szabo explained that the music is often a liberating and rejuvenating experience for her patients.
“With any population in music therapy, the goal is to improve the quality of life. With hospice, that’s the main goal all-around. At the end of life, they’re losing a lot of the things they were able to do before, but we want to make sure they still have those choices to make… and that there are things that can really enhance the time they have.”
Of the plethora of emotions created by music and felt while in hospice, Szabo said joy is the most rewarding emotion she can evoke.
“I saw a patient (recently.) It takes her a second to remember who I am, but she remembers who I am whenever I come in. And she looks at me and she goes ‘You’re here to sing to me!’ The excitement on her face to see me - that’s something that reminds me of why I do what I do because the music brings so much more to her life.”
Many would reflect on the work Szabo does and think that’s difference enough made, but not Szabo. Szabo is seeking to make a difference by competing in the 2021 Miss USA Pageant.
Since high school, Szabo had competed in Miss America but took a break from competition to dedicate herself to school and her career. The pandemic presented an opportunity for Szabo to consider making a comeback - this time in the Miss USA organization due to age restrictions.
“Recently I was thinking ‘Should I do it again? Am I too old? I don’t know.’ But then I (said) right now I have the time to do it and next year I might not and eventually, I’ll age out and wish I did it, so that’s what brought me back.”
The reigning Miss Chestnut Hill USA, Szabo is seeking to use her title to inspire women and debunk some misconceptions surrounding pageants. One of the more common misconceptions Szabo hears is that the pageant is a “pretty girl” competition. Szabo said many are surprised to hear everything that goes into competing.
“With those misconceptions, I try to educate as much as I can. Some people go ‘I didn’t realize there was an interview’ or ‘I didn’t realize the amount of time that goes into it,’” said Szabo. “These are intelligent women who are trying to make a difference in the world through either their platform or whatever they’re trying to accomplish.”
For Szabo, that platform is called “Women in Charge.” Through it, she seeks to empower women to be their fullest selves.
“I want to encourage women to… unapologetically be themselves, and go for what they want. It means a lot to me because I’ve learned in this world how women are having a stronger presence, but sometimes it’s harder for a woman to accomplish something or they’re looked at a certain way; I’ve definitely felt that. I just want to encourage women to feel that they can do anything they want. You should do what you want to do and what makes you happy.”
Szabo recently competed in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant where she did Marywood proud.