The Miss Michigan Scholarship Program
To meet former Miss Michigans, learn about the Miss Michigan Teen program, or to learn more about this year's competition, visit the official website of the Miss Michigan Scholarship Program.
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Thursday begins the final steps of the journey to crown the next Miss Michigan who will participate in the 2013 Miss America pageant in January. Thirty-one exceptionally outgoing locals will travel to Muskegon to showcase their passion for their state and ability to represent the organization with elegance and integrity.
One of the contenders hoping to represent Michigan in this year’s Miss America pageant is Sarah Suydam. The 22-year-old from St. Clair Shores is no stranger to the stage. She holds the title for Miss Spirit of the State 2012, which is held in Grand Rapids and sponsored by local companies. Pageantry was not something Suydam was involved with all of her life. Spending most of her time during middle and high school completely immersed in volleyball, pageantry was a completely different experience for the girl who will now be competing for the Miss Michigan title for the third time.
“As the stereotype goes, I didn’t actually grow up doing pageants. A lot of people think that people start off in kiddie pageants and that’s how they get into the Miss pageants, but I actually was made aware of the Miss St. Claire Shores scholarship pageant through a singing scholarship I had previously won,” Suydam says. After graduating high school the titleholder, who was involved in her high school choir, wasn't provided with many chances to sing in front of a large audience, so being able to present her talent during pageants is one of her favorite parts.
The Miss America organization focuses on helping in the community and connecting with issues that really matter. This current Miss Spirit of the State represents this with her love to volunteer with programs such as the Special Olympics and her work to promote her platform: fire safety and prevention. “Each contestant has their own individual community service platform that means something to them that they want to work with,” Suydam explains. “I chose fire and safety prevention specifically because my brother is going through the fire academy. So it has a special place with me and it has just brought the issue close to home, not only with fire safety but also with advocating for public service men and women and the necessity of having them in the community.”
Despite the ideas of malicious behavior between contestants presented in the media by movies such as “Miss Congeniality,” the girls competing for the Michigan crown have a genuine camaraderie that allow them to become like family instead of rivals. One of the other members of the pageant family participating in Miss Michigan this year is current Grand Rapids resident and Miss Heartland 2012 Morgan Lind.
The summer after she graduated high school, Lind participated in her first pageant in Calhoun County with the hopes of obtaining scholarship money to fund her education. She will now compete for the Miss Michigan title for the last time, after gaining a lifetime of friends and experience from her time in pageantry. “Everything I’ve gained from the last six years is stuff that I never expected to get out of it. It’s absolutely rewarding. There’s so much I’ve gained to make me the person that I am, so it's been great,” says Lind.
While discussing the misconceptions about the Miss America organization, Lind went on to explain that the pageants are more than just promoting good physical looks. “The program develops the all around young woman and today’s modern woman, and if you were to go into the description of today’s modern woman, well I like to say she’s Miss America. She’s educated; she’s a well-rounded person; she’s into the community; she cares about different things and she has goals and dreams set for herself that she will accomplish in life.” As a titleholder, Lind has the chance to promote the organization for what it really stands for, especially when faced with misjudgments.
After participating in 24 pageants, Lind still gets nervous as she waits to walk out onto the stage, but focuses her attention more on the adrenalin the event brings. “It’s about being yourself, and showing who you are and being on stage showing who that person inside really is. You just have to be proud of who you are and what you do,” explains the current Miss Heartland.
For Lind and Suydam, having the honor to represent Michigan in the 2013 Miss America pageant would be a life changing experience, though both agree that the friends they have made and perspective on life they have gained along the way has already made the event completely life changing.