Photo by Llana Berger
The Miss West Chester University scholarship organization, sponsored by Residence Life and Housing, gives the opportunity for female WCU students to represent their community service platform and also express themselves through casual wear, talent and evening gown among other ways. This organization was started by Michael Hartman in 1998 in Killinger Hall and has evolved into an annual event at WCU. The event is held in the Asplundh Concert Hall and has provided about $60,000 to nearly 500 women. If you get the chance to meet Hartman, you will understand why the pageant is as amazing as it is today. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to work with him this past year preparing as a contestant myself.
How did I get involved?
Personally, I’ve been wanting to sign up for the Miss WCU pageant since my freshman year, after seeing posts about it on West Chester’s Facebook page. I never knew when to sign up and never thought that I actually would. Then, this past fall semester, I saw the table at the involvement fair. As soon as I did, I knew it was meant to be and that I had to give it a try. I grabbed a flyer and signed up for an information session right away.
The info session was the first place I met Molly Callahan, Miss WCU 2014, who shared my community service platform, Bringing Hope Home. Molly acts as a mentor to current contestants and plays a major role in running the pageant process. At the info session, I learned about the process, what it entails and was given an application to submit by November.
After that, the wait for the Miss WCU e-mail began. I remember receiving the e-mail while out to a family dinner and was overjoyed, although I had no idea what was to come. Our first meeting was the week before winter break and over break we were instructed to prep for the pageant. Once we returned from break it was go time. Rehearsals and everything else were in full swing because the big day was only a few short weeks away.
What does it entail?
Preparing for the pageant included getting outfits for each category: interview, opening act, casual wear, talent and evening gown. This seems expensive but borrowing clothes and old prom dresses was a solution many girls used, including myself. Also, don’t get scared away by the word talent! Yes, many girls sang, danced and other extremely amazing things some of us just can’t do. Well I am here to tell you those aren’t the only talented things the Miss WCU pageant consists of. I cannot do any of the above so I incorporated my minor, deaf studies, and did a song in ASL. Another contestant recited a reading she memorized. Talents of all shapes and sizes are welcomed. This also applies to the contestants involved. This is not your stereotypical pageant where you have a “summer bod” ready for the swimsuit part. Michael created a pageant that welcomes all girls and encourages the beautiful part of women, their intelligence and their drive to inspire. To be in the pageant, you simply need a community service platform, talent and a few rehearsal times, including pageant day, available.
This year, the big day occurred on Feb. 8. This all-day process started with interviews with the judges in the morning, more rehearsals, hair and makeup, then next thing you know it’s show time. The show went by in a blink and I would do anything to go back.
Why do it?
Michael Hartman is just the start of the amazing people you meet through this process. Many of the former Miss WCU winners return every year to be mentors to the contestants and help with any type of preparation needed. I was lucky enough to have the very first winner of the Miss WCU title be my mentor and guide me with amazing feedback through the entire process. Michelle Filling, Miss WCU 1999, expressed to me how she “loves coming back annually to give back to the program through mentoring and providing mock interviews.” She also said she is “passionate about leadership development in women and is in awe of what WCU students are accomplishing.” Michelle is the host of the show now and not only a role model to her mentees, but the entire community of WCU.
Aside from the usual Miss WCU group, all of the contestants are amazing and extremely supportive. I met 14 girls who cheered me on every step of the way and still continue to boost me up. In the short amount of time we had during rehearsals, to the day we were all anticipating, we stood side-by-side and encouraged the unique aspects we all brought to this process. Miss WCU 2020 is Allie Short, who was a great supporter to every girl throughout the process and who I personally felt close with. Allie, like any of the other girls, will make a perfect fit for Miss WCU 2020 and shine throughout her year.
Personally, this was the best thing I have done at WCU. It was completely out of my comfort zone and made my emotions go crazy. With that said, no words explain going out on the stage with my new amazing friends and nailing the dance we had been practicing over and over again. I would love to relive my walk down stage in my casual wear outfit. Nothing was more fun than doing my talent and having a crowd cheer me on for doing something I love. Nothing will compare to sparkling in my dress and feeling my heart beat as we waited for top five, awards and the winner to be announced.
No matter how much you fear something new, give it your best try because it may be the most memorable thing you do. You never know, it may be your new favorite thing and it may change your confidence in yourself in a way you never would have believed. Whether it’s doing the Miss WCU pageant or whatever you desire, I encourage you to try and give it your all. I totally believe I am a more confident, passionate and driven person after this experience, and felt nothing but joy. You never know, you could be the next Miss WCU!
Amanda Hearn is a third year psychology major with a minor in deaf studies. AH888217@wcupa.edu