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Young leaders in dance, science take the crown

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

When her college shut down due to coronavirus precautions, Ashley Swanson of Camden suddenly found herself back in her hometown. The software engineering major had competed in the teen level of Miss Delaware, and she knew she wanted to compete again.

“It has long been a dream of mine to compete at the ‘Miss level,’ so it felt like a blessing in disguise to come home and have the opportunity to compete,” she said.

Young women across the state have been in local Miss Delaware competitions the past few weeks. On March 15, Swanson was crowned Miss Blue Gold and Kaylynn Pride, a Delaware State University junior, was crowned Miss Hockessin.

The competition had four rounds: a private 10-minute interview with a panel of five judges, on-stage questioning, a 90-second talent showcase and a red-carpet interview. The candidates must present a social initiative, an organization or movement they hope to take on during their year of service.

Pride, a communications major, said her winner’s scholarship will help her pursue her goals of becoming a TV personality and producer.

“I have chosen to compete so that I can encourage and inspire others, as well,” she said.

Swanson and Pride will next compete for the Miss Delaware title June 20 at Cape Henlopen High School, assuming it is not postponed. The winning Miss Delaware will compete for Miss America in December.

Miss Hockessin and Miss Blue Gold talked about what the titles mean to them, and their social initiatives.

What was your reaction when you were crowned?

Miss Hockessin: When I was crowned Miss Hockessin, I was ecstatic. I put a lot of energy into preparing for the competition and when my name was called, I felt that all my hard work had finally paid off. This title is more than just a sash and a crown. It is about being a positive role model by serving and inspiring others.

MissBlue Gold: I was thrilled to be crowned Miss Blue Gold because the Miss Delaware organization offers scholarships that will help me pay my way through engineering school. I am also excited to be a representative for my state and use my title to advocate for a variety of nonprofit organizations, such as the Children’s Miracle Network.

Tell me about your social initiative.

H: ‘Dancing for Better Health’ focuses on motivating and encouraging youth who are challenged with obesity or low self-esteem to incorporate dance into their weekly routine. Learning to express themselves through the rhythm of dance will lead to better mental, emotional, and physical health. Dancing is my passion and teaching others is my mission.

BG: It is called ‘Women Are Picking Up STEAM’ - science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. My platform encourages elementary-aged girls to take interest in these areas because fostering scientific curiosities from an early age is an essential step in closing the gender gap in these fields.

What do you want people to know about the competition?

H: The Miss Delaware competition has the power to inspire, uplift, and help women find their purpose and achieve their dreams. The statewide Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization has been awarding scholarship money for over 80 years.

Nationwide, the Miss America Organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Their slogan is “Preparing great women for the world, and preparing the world for great women.”

BG: I would want people to know that it is truly more than a beauty pageant. The organization stands for empowering young women across the state to showcase their leadership, talent, communication skills and brains. Preparations for the interview phase of competition provide an invaluable skill for candidates. The confidence I have gained helped me land a variety of internship opportunities including a software job at Toyota’s North American headquarters. Appearances at different nonprofit organizations provide opportunities to share hugs and compassion and to improve public speaking skills. And the talent phase of competition encourages contestants to showcase an art of their choice.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.