Four Saginaw Valley State University students will compete in the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant in June, including one woman whose mother once won both the Miss Michigan and Miss America titles.
SVSU students Jaeleen Davis of Saginaw Township; Ashli Maser of Au Gres; Mallory Rivard of Bay City; and Alana Rae Wilson of Monroe are four of the 34 contestants in the pageant.
The Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant is affiliated with the Miss America Organization, one of the world’s largest providers of scholarships for women. The Miss Michigan contest will award almost $50,000 in scholarships during a 5-day contest that concludes Saturday, June 20, in Muskegon. The winner earns a $12,000 scholarship and clinches a spot in the Miss America competition in September.
“Although this is a competition, we are close friends,” Rivard said of the SVSU foursome. “We have similar ideals and morals.”
One of those shared ideals is passion for community service work. Miss Michigan contestants promote a charity or cause as part of their competition “platform.” SVSU’s contestants say they are excited to promote their respective causes.
Davis’ platform promotes Wigs 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization serving youths suffering from hair loss. Davis at the age of 8 was diagnosed with a condition that causes hair loss at a young age. A child model before losing her hair, she credits Wigs 4 Kids with helping her regain confidence.
“I was modeling everything a little kid could model,” said Davis, a criminal justice and communications major.
“Once I lost my hair, I lost my confidence and I became antisocial and an introvert. Wigs 4 Kids, my family and my faith are the three things that brought me back.”
Maser’s platform encourages others “to pursue the American dream.” She recently spoke to members of the Michigan House of Representatives about initiatives that would beef up the number of guidance counselors in K-12 schools. Maser said more counselors are needed to guide youths toward successful lives after high school.
“I’m a first-generation college student, still debt free,” said Maser, a biochemistry major who plans to attend dental school to become an orthodontist and oral surgeon.
“If I can do that, anyone can.”
Rivard’s platform encourages volunteerism. In May the early childhood education major volunteered at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center's Saginaw VA2K and Annual Health Fair. The initiative raised funds for homeless veterans.
“I want to be a role model for others,” Rivard said. “I want to lead by example and encourage our youth to give back to our communities. In turn, this will make Michigan a better place to live.”
Wilson’s platform supports Gabby’s Ladder, a Monroe-based organization providing support for grieving families. She volunteers at the center and serves on its board of directors. Wilson said she has been passionate about the cause since childhood, when her baby brother died.
“I’ve been through the grieving process, so I can relate to that,” the elementary education major said. “It’s so important to offer those services for people grieving and dealing with loss.”
All four SVSU students are experienced in pageants. To qualify for the Miss Michigan competition, contestants must win one of 34 pageants in the state. Davis won Miss Spirit of the State; Maser, Miss Heartland; Rivard, Miss Bay County; and Wilson, Miss Monroe County.
Three of the four women competed in previous Miss Michigan challenges. Both Davis and Maser placed in the top 10 in 2014. Rivard competed in two earlier Miss Michigan pageants.
This year will mark the first Miss Michigan competition for Wilson, but she comes from winning lineage. Her mother, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, won the state pageant and that cycle’s Miss America crown for 1988. The win came a decade before her daughter was born. Still, Wilson said she has attended 15 Miss America pageants with her mother, who is invited as an alumna of the competition.
“It’s exciting being the daughter of a Miss America,” Wilson said. “The organization feels a lot like family to me.”
Shelley Taylor, state director of the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant for ten years, is familiar with all four SVSU students.
“They’re a great bunch of women,” she said. “They are quality, quality people. Wouldn’t it be something if one of them won?”