The 2017 Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant in Muskegon will feature a heavy dose of “Red Pride” this week, as five of the 34 contestants hail from Saginaw Valley State University.
SVSU students Jaeleen Davis of Bay City and Alana Rae Wilson of Monroe, and recent SVSU alumni Ashli Maser of Au Gres; Mallory Rivard of Bay City; and Kara Terry of Davison will all compete for the crown. Each of them brings passion for their platform – a cause they support – and their university.
Maser’s platform is “S.T.E.M. from Your Roots.” Inspired in part by her own biochemistry studies, she promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning among K-12 students, including visits to classrooms.
“My focus is figuring out how to engage middle school students in STEM through hands-on curriculum,” she said. “What brought me to SVSU was its good science program. To give back by telling other students how much fun STEM can be has been very rewarding. It’s fun to spark their curiosity and hear what they have to say.”
Maser earned second runner-up status in 2016; she and Davis now have advanced to the final weekend for three consecutive years; and Rivard for four years. Wilson competed in Miss Michigan’s final weekend in 2015. Miss Saginaw County was Terry’s first pageant win.
Wilson said her fellow SVSU-affiliated contestants consider each other friends.
“Knowing I get to spend a whole week with some of my best friends and get to do what I love at the same time is so exciting for me,” Wilson said. “I am very blessed with all the people I have met and become close with over the years I have been competing.”
Davis has shown a remarkable competitive spirit to remain a contestant. Last July, she suffered a 30-foot fall that fractured several bones and required months of recovery. Her resilience is well established in pageant circles. As a child, Davis was diagnosed with alopecia universalis, a condition that caused her to lose her hair. She has since adopted Wigs 4 Kids as her platform.
“I realized, a hairpiece can fix a child who is aching to feel normal again,” Davis said. “I felt normal — I am normal — because of a hairpiece.”
If Wilson wins this week’s competition, she would be crowned Miss Michigan 30 years after her mother earned the same title. Her mother, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, also advanced and won the Miss America crown that same year.
“That would be very cool, to say the least,” Wilson said about the prospect of winning on the anniversary year of her mother’s victory.
“I am here competing for myself — because this is my dream as well — but how exciting would it be to not only become the first mother-daughter Miss Michigan, but then the first mother-daughter Miss America.”
The 2017 Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant contest kicks off with preliminary competition Thursday and Friday, June 15-16. The new Miss Michigan will be crowned during competition that begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 17.
The Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant is affiliated with the Miss America Organization, one of the world’s largest providers of scholarships for women. The winner earns a $12,000 scholarship and clinches a spot in the Miss America competition in September. Four runners-up earn $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000 scholarships, respectively.
To qualify for the Miss Michigan competition, contestants must capture one of 34 pageants in the state. Davis earned Miss Heartland; Maser won Miss Spirit of the State; Rivard earned Miss SouthCentral; Terry won Miss Saginaw County; and Wilson earned Miss Bay County.
Davis, a criminal justice and communication major, plans to graduate from SVSU in December 2017.
Maser graduated in May 2016, earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. She plans to attend Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Illinois in the fall.
Rivard graduated from SVSU in May 2017, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and early childhood education. She has been hired full-time as a teacher by Bay City Public Schools.
Terry graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. She plans to attend graduate school at Auburn University in the fall, studying human nutritional sciences.
Wilson, a business management major, expects to graduate in December 2018.