Pageant winner’s platform encourages young people

Albany native Alexandria Van Dyke has used the pageant system to enhance her educational career. (Special Photo)

ALBANY — Alexandria Van Dyke made history when she was crowned the first United States of America’s Miss Albany. But the queen has a story of her own that she says she hopes will expand the common narrative for not only pageant culture but also the lives of young blacks.

A native Albanian, Van Dyke first left her home city to attend the University of Georgia in 2013 after graduating as the valedictorian of Monroe Comprehensive High School. During her college career, she would write multiple essays for scholarships alongside maintaining her GPA while also participating in a series of school sports-related programs and employment … all in a united effort to support her efforts to secure a bachelor’s degree in Education for Sports Management.

Van Dyke says she discovered the United States of America pageant while attempting to find a more unique and less literature-based means of earning student grants. But she said she was leery of enrolling in the competition. Despite her prior experience as Miss Monroe High in 2012, Van Dyke said, “I realized it was a Miss America preliminary, and I just felt like ‘Is my first time going to be against these girls, who have been in pageants since they could breath?’”

So Van Dyke decided to do the next best thing: volunteer. For a year, she would have behind-the-scenes access to the the world of professional pageantry, which she said proved to be awe-inspiring.

“You see all the superficial things that surround pageantry, but it was the total opposite experience; everybody was about empowering each other, and that’s what I like about the Miss America System,” Van Dyke said. “It was super easy to enter; all you had to do was donate $100 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and then there are the four points of the craft (scholarships, service, success, and style) assessment. And, you know, that was everything I needed in my life, and I just fell in love with the people around it.”

With the encouragement of competitors and staff, Van Dyke took part in the Miss America preliminaries, starting with Miss University of Georgia and extending into Miss Stone Mountain, Miss Cherry Blossom and Miss Black America. As of 2018, Van Dyke has six years of pageantry participation experience. She has used her platform to strengthen her bond with the local community through her current employment as direct delivery assistant with Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia-Athens, troop leader of two troops within the Georgia council and activity within the Girls Inc. of Albany Service Ambassador Program.

However, during her pageant career, Van Dyke has worked to promote her original foundations, such as Girls Leading Our World (GLOW), Princess Boot Camp Pageant Prep and Self-Discovery Workshops, which focus on young women’s development through a network that attempts to provide friendship, mentorship and scholarship opportunities.

Since earning her Lady Pearl Etiquette Consultant License, Van Dyke is currently working to develop a debutante and young gentlemen’s program as an extension to her current “Ballers and Bowties” organization, which focuses on aiding in the positive representation of male student-athletes through offering courses in public speaking and placing importance on first impressions.

Through each of her projects, Van Dye’s goal has been to help make college attainable for all students. Those interested in participation and have questions and/or concerns related to any of her programs may contact her through email at book.ladvadyke@gmail.com.

Currently, as she pursues her master’s degree in kinesiology, Van Dyke said she looks forward to being introduced to her successor, encouraging young women to take the opportunity to enroll for competition in the Miss USA teen and adult division in the spring.

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken,” Van Dyke advises. “Even if you’re not in the pageant world, if you’re brand new, if you prepared, you can rock that stage and go home with your first crown on your first try. So never doubt yourself,”.

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