A Q&A with biodiesel beauty queen Sydney Jaeger, Miss Dodge City

By The National Biodiesel Board | June 06, 2016

Sydney Jaeger is not your typical pageant girl. But if you are looking for her the second week of June she will be busy competing in the Miss Kansas pageant representing as Miss Dodge City. Sydney is one of five sisters in the Jaeger household and just graduated high school this spring. As with most girls her age, Sydney began looking for scholarship opportunities that could lead her toward a college education. In her search she found the Miss America Organization and was instantly hooked by the opportunities it provides to serve others and the potential platform it could create.

Sydney is the daughter of Luke Jaeger, co-owner of biodiesel production company Emergent Green Energy in Minneola, Kansas. Luke, along with his brother Matt, started the biodiesel plant in 2012 and have operated it along-side their full time farming operation as a family business. So it comes as little surprise that Sydney has developed a love for biodiesel, and lists operating heavy equipment on the family farm and working in the biodiesel plant among her hobbies.

As the Miss Kansas pageant approaches, the National Biodiesel Board sat down with Sydney to learn more about her journey into the pageant world, her love for biodiesel, and her future plans.

Q: You have some unconventional hobbies compared to the stereotypical beauty queen. How do these help you stand out from the rest?

A: My many diverse activities and unusual hobbies for a beauty queen help me reach out to many other crowds that might look down upon pageant girls. I feel that I'm well-rounded and can talk to people, especially Kansans, about what they’re passionate about. I have owned a small business, I’ve worked cattle, and I’ve been driving a grain cart in the harvest field since I was eight years old. Even though my family’s business is in renewable energy, I have investments in fossil fuels, so I understand that market as well. As a whole, I feel like I have a better understanding for the economy than most pageant girls. I am very comfortable talking about liabilities and assets with successful businessmen and businesswomen and this alone sets me apart from the rest. 

Q: So why do you want to be Miss Kansas and hopefully the future Miss America?

A: I want to be Miss Kansas and even Miss America to set an example, not only as a confident woman, but a well-rounded woman. I feel that I have qualities to offer that former title holders have not even thought about. I’m involved in so many diverse activities that I feel I could reach nearly every crowd with my message about becoming a strong man or woman.

Q: What message do you hope to leave behind for those following you?

A: I hope after people see what I accomplish, they will know that you don’t have to fit a stereotype to go out and try something out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, God has a different plan for you than you have for yourself. If you want to try new things, do it with confidence. In all that you do, do it with confidence and a humble heart. With God, all things are possible.

Q: How has your family’s biodiesel business helped shape you into who you are today?

A: My family’s biodiesel business has everything to do with who I am today. Many of my peers like to think I simply reap the benefits of the business and don’t do much work with it. That’s the part that makes me laugh the most! Every opportunity I have, I'm out helping with the family business. Whether that’s running the fuel truck from field to field during harvest to fuel up the farm equipment, overseeing reactions in the biodiesel plant, or even pressure washing a semi tanker in between used cooking oil pick up and fuel delivery. Let me put that last one in perspective. Imagine yourself inside the cylindrical semi-trailer with one hole at the top just big enough to lower yourself down into the tank. You’re then left mostly in the dark spraying 180-200 degree water at some nasty grease stains. After a few seconds, you start to question whether you’re dripping from the pressure washer or your own sweat!

To sum all of that up, my family’s biodiesel company has helped me to demonstrate a prime example of a well-rounded individual. Yes, I can drive a semi, do “men’s” work, and turn used cooking oil into a renewable energy source!

Q: What do you like best about renewable energy like biodiesel?

A: If you ask me, biodiesel is the future. For those of you that don't know, we are able to take the used cooking oil from many restaurants (a waste product) and turn it into biodiesel fuel. We are able to run this fuel in all of our vehicles and farm equipment. If that doesn’t get you interested in this renewable fuel, I don’t know what will. Like I said, renewable fuels are the future. 

Q: What made you want to get involved with biodiesel?

A: This is actually kind of a funny story. My dad went to fuel up his semi one day when crude oil supply was low and demand was high (fuel prices were up). It cost him almost $1,000 to fuel up his semi for sunflower harvest. He knew there had to be a better, more affordable way. He started researching and, before I knew it, he was asking me if I wanted to help him with a science experiment. I wasn’t sure what mom’s vegetable oil and her measuring cups had to do with anything dad wanted to experiment with, but I played along. Just like that, we had made our first batch of biodiesel. From the first experiment between dad and “Little Syd” I was hooked. My last semester of high school, I was able to do a work-study alongside our chemist, producing biodiesel on a much larger scale. I am so proud to work for Emergent Green Energy, the only operating biodiesel plant in the state of Kansas.

Q: What have been a couple of your favorite experiences dealing with biodiesel?

A: Since we produce biodiesel, dad asks that we all drive diesel vehicles. My sisters and I mostly drive Volkswagens with diesel engines. An experience that will never get old when dealing with biodiesel is pulling up to a gas station while we’re out of town and fueling up with the green nozzle. You wouldn’t believe some people’s reaction when they see a pretty girl putting diesel in her car! They’ll shout “Ma’am! You know that’s diesel?” And I’ll respond, “It's what!? Oh no!! How do I fix it!?” Followed by my laughter and a point to my license plate that says “Powered by Biodiesel.”

Q: What are your plans for after high school?

A: Next year, if I am not crowned Miss Kansas, I will be attending Wichita State University. While pursuing a degree in chemical engineering I will be cheering on the Shox (literally). As well as being a cheerleader, I will also be a student ambassador for the university. I look forward to obtaining my chemical engineering degree and furthering my biodiesel research. 


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