As Miss Maryland, Kathleen Masek said the crown will give her a bigger microphone to advocate for military families.
Masek's platform, which she has been working on since her local Miss White Oak pageant win and will carry into the Miss America competition, is called "From Sea to Shining Sea: Supporting our Military Families."
Part of this is Operation Integrate, a program she developed to help the children of military families feel more comfortable when they are placed in a new school after moving with a military parent. She envisions a peer-facilitation style program where another student will help show a child around their new school because a peer can provide support where a parent or teacher cannot.
"I was a military child myself," said Masek, now a Westminster resident, "and I know how it feels to be moved around and tugged in one direction and then another."
On June 24, Masek was crowned Miss Maryland in the competition in Hagerstown. Along with the title, Masek was awarded a $10,000 scholarship, which she will use to attend Towson University in 2018 and pursue a degree in business once her duties as Miss Maryland are finished. She also volunteers with the United Service Organizations and Operation Welcome Home Maryland as a part of her platform.
During the next two months, she will prepare for the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
"We're trying to cram a lot into a couple of months," she said.
One service requirement for every potential Miss America is raising money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. As of Friday, Masek had raised $830 of her $1,450 goal. She'll also be having a meet and greet fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network on July 22 at O'Lordan's Irish Pub in Westminster.
Masek said she is happy to be able to help children who are having a tough time.
"It's not just getting dressed up to win a crown and sash ... but mainly to serve my community," she wrote on her fundraising page.
Masek currently works as a model with Reinhard Model and Talent Agency, a profession she said she got involved with through the pageant world.
"It's not all glitz and glam like some people think it is," she said, "but it is very rewarding"
She has been participating in pageants since she was 16. She said that despite the negative stereotype about pageants, the bonds she forms with her competitors are some of the most rewarding parts of competing. "Every girl is your friend there," she said. "We truly are sister queens."
One of the friends who supported Masek was 2016 Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer, also a Carroll County resident.
"She pushed me in the sense that I needed to practice," Masek said. Brewer was at the Hagerstown competition to help crown Masek as her successor.
During the preparations and competition at Miss Maryland, contestants were asked not to use their cellphones or social media. While some might find that stressful, Masek said she thought it was a way for the organizers of the competition to look out for participants.
"There can be a lot of hearsay about girls and families [on social media]," she said. "This keeps our focus there."
The Miss America Competition will be held Sept. 10 and broadcast live on ABC. The Miss America Organization is "the nation's leading advocate for women's education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States, awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers," according to its website.
If you go
What: Miss Maryland meet and greet fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network
When: 4-7 p.m. July 22
Where: O'Lordan's Irish Pub, 14 Liberty St., Westminster
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More information or to donate: missamericaforkids.org/donate/kateskorner