Tommi Roberts is a ninth-grade student at Daniel High School in Central. A bubbly brunette who loves to sing and play soccer, she competed in the school’s Miss Summit Pageant back in January.

Pageants, whether they be at school for fun or part of a scholarship program like Miss America, are a popular event for young ladies across the country and right here in South Carolina. At Daniel High School, approximately 40 girls participated in the 2018 school pageant. And across the Upstate dozens of girls from high schools all over did the same.

Some aspire to climb the ranks and make their way to Miss America, but others just want to do it for the experience.

For now, Tommi falls into the latter category. But one woman who worked her way through the ranks is Rachel Wyatt, who worked her way from Miss Clemson to Miss South Carolina, and was the 2017 runner up for Miss America.

Wyatt said the Miss America Organization provided her with scholarships to go to graduate school debt-free and allowed her to build amazing relationships with others. She said no other program provides the unique opportunities for growth and service.

Tommi’s mother Desiree said the school pageant is something Tommi has wanted to do for a while, and they encouraged her to give it a try. She said she felt doing this within the school was a good way for her daughter to experience something she might not do outside of school, and it helps the girls build good character.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to learn the importance of confidence and composure during an interview,” Desiree said.

Dana Howard, a teacher from Daniel High, said that the school’s pageant is a stand-alone event and done for the fun of students and community members. They even added a Mr. Daniel High portion of the evening for a comical aspect. But one of the biggest aspects of the pageant is using it as a fundraiser.

“We're able to use the pageant as a vehicle for raising money for our school wide charity of choice, Relay for Life,” Howard said.

Win or lose, Desiree wanted to make sure Tommi was prepared regardless of the outcome.

“I have definitely given my best effort to equip her for both winning and losing. Not just for pageants, but for life,” she added.

She said as long as all of her daughters know their parents love them unconditionally regardless of the outcome of an event, then they have done their job.

At Daniel High, each contestant is asked an interview question prior to the pageant, then at the event, they go through an introduction, a section of formalwear, then finalists participate in a question and answer session in stage. According to Howard, the young ladies who participate enjoy each portion of the evening.

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The oldest pageant dates back to 1921 and is none other than Miss America. It was started as a way to draw tourism to Atlantic City, but has grown into an organization that provides scholarships for young women.

Spokesperson for the Miss America Organization Chelsea Mineur said that it is more than a title. She said Miss America is a movement to empower young women across the country to achieve their goals by providing scholarships. She added it also gives them the opportunity to help others through their platforms. She noted that scholarships can be won without having to win a title.

For Wyatt, who graduated from Clemson in December, the pageant world has given her the chance to be a better person overall.

“I am a more empowered individual because of my experiences as a titleholder within the Miss America Organization,” she said.

And that’s exactly what Tommi hoped to get out of her school’s pageant. While she did not take home a crown in January, she presented herself with poise and grace. She said she wanted to work on her interview skills and composure, as well as hone her ability to think on the spot.

She did admit, though, that she was also excited to dress up for the event.

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