Miss Ball State
Miss Ball State Anastasia Sharp-Keller found a sense of purpose in sharing her experiences to encourage mental health awareness.

Don’t be misled by her smile that outshines her sparkly crown. Miss Ball State Anastasia Sharp-Keller, ’21, takes her role seriously. As Miss Ball State, Sharp-Keller—a first-generation Psychological Science major who graduated in May—adopted a new initiative this past academic year: mental health care and awareness.

Her platform grew out of a meeting during the Fall semester with President Geoffrey S. Mearns. She explained how she felt comfortable at Ball State due to the University’s pandemic response and focus on supporting students’ mental and physical health.

The topic is close to Sharp-Keller’s heart. Like many of her peers, she wrestled with anxiety and depression in her younger years after setbacks, including deteriorating vision she suffered until surgery in high school corrected the condition. At the same time, some schoolmates bullied both Sharp-Keller and her brother, who has high-functioning autism. Things got better for both after they transferred to another school, and her mental health continued to improve thanks to therapy and support from her family and friends.

Finding Purpose

Competing in pageants at her mother’s suggestion also helped Sharp-Keller boost her confidence and self-esteem. Sharp-Keller has been in the Miss America organization, competing locally, since she was 12. She intended to compete for the Miss Indiana crown this Summer.

Sharp-Keller’s Ball State student experience positively impacted her mental health, too. “Every professor and staff person at Ball State was so kind and helpful. That eased a lot of my anxiety. I felt like I belonged. I felt more confident. I felt like I had a purpose,” she explained.

Sharp-Keller’s 2019-2020 Miss Ball State reign was extended due to COVID-19. Coping with the pandemic became a theme, as she has reached out to fellow students and others through videos and on social media. She has encouraged them to seek help through Counseling Center services if needed, and “to be one another’s support systems. We need to be there for each other.”

Looking ahead, her career goal is to open a private practice that serves children with autism spectrum disorders. Sharp-Keller intends to pursue a master’s degree in clinical mental health, followed by a doctorate. — Landa Bagley