Stephanie Owens is using the values she learned here in Warren County to work toward a lifelong dream, and raising awareness along the way.
Owens, a Youngsville Area High School alumnus currently studying at Gannon University, will be heading from Erie to Pittsburgh to compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania.
"Preparing for Miss Pennsylvania is very exciting," Owens said. "This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl, so finally being able to get there is a pretty big deal for me."
The 20-year-old was crowned Miss Pennsbury 2013 at the Miss Neshaminy Valley Scholarship Competition in Souderton this March, garnering her the opportunity to compete this June in the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Competition representing Bucks and Montgomery counties. The competition is scheduled for June 13-15 at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh.
A win in Pittsburgh will give her the right to compete in Atlantic City, N.J., for the 2014 Miss America crown, but it all started right here in Warren County.
"I got interested in the Miss America system after I completed my year as the 2009 Warren County Fair Queen," Owens recalled. "I met some of the girls that competed in the America system during my year as fair queen and decided to give it a try. This is my second year competing in the Miss America system and my first year competing for the title of Miss Pennsylvania. Competing in Miss Pennsylvania locals has taken me all over the state of Pennsylvania and has really given me a chance to see our wonderful state. I also plan to keep competing in the Miss America system until I either win Miss PA or age out at 24."
For Owens, another of the system's appeals is a dedication to charitable giving.
"The Miss America system partners with the Children's Miracle Network to raise money for the foundation," Owens pointed out. "As part of our pledge to compete at Miss Pennsylvania, we are asked to raise $250. You can go to www.missamericaforkids.org and select search for contestants and find my name. Any little bit counts and it really goes to a great cause. Miss America is a non-profit organization that relies on the contestant to make our dreams come true."
Owens is currently enrolled as a sport and exercise pre-physician major and plans to pursue a master's degree as a physician's assistant, but her competition platform is focusing on another passion - music.
"I hope to spread awareness on my platform, "Save The Arts in Education," Owens said. "I was very active in our high school orchestra. Music has done so much for me throughout my life and I think it is absolutely something we need to keep in our children's education. The arts are proven to raise standardized testing scores and they are also a great way for children to express their emotions in a positive way.
"One of the greatest statements I have ever heard came from my high school orchestra and band director, Mrs. (Cynthia) Scheid. She always told us music is a team effort. It's not like other sports where you can take someone out and replace them. You can't be replaced and you have to give it your all 100 percent of the time. This is something that has followed me into college and also into competing in the Miss America system."
In addition to school and pageant competition, Owens also manages to fit in a work study program.
"A lot of my time is spent going to school, competing in pageants, and working at my work study here at Gannon and also at Sara's Ice Cream Shop here on Presque Isle," Owens added.
Owens said balancing it all can be stressful, but worthwhile as well.
"Pageants are a lot of fun for me," Owens said "A bit stressful during, because of all the outfit changes we have to do in such little time, but it is a great experience and I have made so many great friends through this system.
"We, as contestants, have to go through an interview process first, then the phases of competition are introduction, swimsuit, talent and evening gown. My talent performance is playing 'Turkey in the Straw' on the violin, which I have been playing since I was about 9.
"There is a lot of paperwork that has to be done in the upcoming weeks, along with finding all the pieces to my wardrobe and interview prep. But this is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am just so thankful that I can be a part of this journey. Right now, I am just focusing on trying to win that Miss Pennsylvania crown and that means eating right, going to the gym, making appearances and studying up on all recent events."