Miss Morgan County contest has scholarship prizes
The Miss Morgan County Scholarship Program is in its fourth year and has nearly doubled in the number of participants since its start.
The program has given out around $4,000 in scholarships in the last three years to winners of the Tiny Miss, Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Morgan County divisions.
Program executive director and Shepherd University student Chelsea Hessler hopes to encourage more high school girls to enter. The Miss Morgan County competition awards a $500 cash scholarship for the grades nine-12 division winner.
Winners in the Tiny Miss (grades k-two), Little Miss (grades three-five) and Junior Miss (grades six-eight) divisions each get a $100 cash scholarship. Division winners also receive a tiara, sash and trophy. First and second runners up receive a cash scholarship and trophy.
Registration deadline for the program is Friday, February 15, which is also orientation day. Contestants must be a Morgan County resident.
Girls are encouraged to register as soon as possible, but can also register at orientation, Hessler said. The competition is set for Sunday, March 17 at the Berkeley Springs High School auditorium.
The scholarship program helps girls to develop poise, self-confidence and public speaking skills and highlights their community service achievements and natural inner beauty, Hessler said. It gives them life skills, raises self-esteem and promotes future community leaders. Winners make appearances at community events.
The program also gives girls the chance to meet and make friends with girls from other schools.
Not a beauty pageant
The Miss Morgan County competition isn’t a beauty pageant or “Toddlers and Tiaras,” it’s a scholarship program, Hessler noted during a December Morgan County School Board presentation. The proceeds each year also benefit county non-profit organizations. About $5,300 has been given to local non-profits.
This year’s proceeds will be donated to the Shenandoah Women’s Center. Last year’s proceeds helped start the Ann Moss Smith Community Service Scholarship, which is presented to a Morgan County graduating senior. The scholarship is funded by the Smith family and the Morningside CEOS.
Contestants perform a series of group production numbers before they compete. Previous year titleholders also entertain the audience.
Group performances are followed by on-stage introductions for each contestant, costume and casual wear presentations and formal wear presentations. Each contestant also receives an on-stage question which they must answer. Questions are picked from a basket.
In addition to these competition categories, the grade nine-12 Miss contestants are interviewed by the judges beforehand and also perform a speech or talent.
The girls prepare speeches ahead of time on one of six selected topics or give a solo performance such as a song, cheerleading routine or theatrical monologue. The event is open to any kind of talent performance—the sky’s the limit, Hessler said.
Division trophies are awarded for outstanding overall presentation, costume/casual wear/formal presentations, on-stage introductions, academic achievement, community service and personal development. Miss trophies also include ones for outstanding talent and interview.
Judging criteria include stage presence, poise, eye contact, smile and vocal delivery.
The contestants choose the winner of the Alex Rickli Spirit Award, which is given to the friendliest, most outgoing contestant that helped other girls during the competition, Hessler said. The award was created in memory of Rickli, a former Miss Morgan County contestant. Her family presents the award.
Hessler works with local businesses that sponsor the scholarship money. She said there’s been a huge response from the community and lots of staff and volunteers that help, such as her mom and family, friends and local organizations.
Hessler expressed appreciation to the school board for allowing use of the high school auditorium and other rooms for the event at no charge.
Hessler said she is really proud of how the scholarship program has taken off and what it’s done for contestants. Girls that participate are doing better in school and are now trying new things. They learn how to be on stage and be respectful of others.
“It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth every moment,” Hessler said of organizing the event.
For more information about the Miss Morgan County Scholarship Program or to register, call Hessler at 304-839-6335.