Heels, ball gowns, and a tiara were all part of the annual Miss Mary Hardin-Baylor pageant that took place in Walton Chapel on Nov. 6 and 7. The event gave 26 girls representing 26 different campus organizations the opportunity to showcase their talents and be a voice for a cause they are passionate about.
“Pageant is really focused on the girls building relationships together and with God. This year we focused a lot on how each girl is beautiful and flawless through Jesus Christ,” said senior elementary education major Rachel Correale, who directed the event. “This experience also grows the contestant as a person.”
This year’s pageant featured a variety of talents, from stand-up comedy to spoken word to storytelling using henna and the reciting of favorite childhood books.
“I have always had a love of the book The Giving Tree, so one day I sat down and prayed about it being my talent,” senior speech communication major and first runner-up Katie Stringer said. “Then next thing I knew I had a whole monologue about the ultimate gift we can receive – Jesus Christ.”
Stringer was given the award for Miss Congeniality at the end of the show, which was a special award voted on by Stringer’s fellow contestants. Winning that award held great sentimental value to Stringer and her late mother.
“When I won Miss Congeniality, I felt so honored and shocked. I cannot even express in words how much receiving that award meant to me,” Stringer said. “I told my mother when I was a little girl that I would one day be just like Sandra Bullock in my favorite movie and become Miss Congeniality. These wonderful new friends have graciously helped me achieve that dream.”
After other special awards such as Best Gown and Best Talent were given out, it was time to announce the winner. Everyone stood and cheered as sophomore music major Karon Chapa was crowned Miss Mary Hardin-Baylor 2016.
“A lot of people don’t know how vulnerable we are during practice and Karon was so encouraging when we needed her, and then I had the opportunity to see her true heart as I watched and listened to her platform,” freshman nursing major and Miss Freshman Class Mercedes Saldivar said. “I’m just super excited for her and can’t wait to see how she goes about using her platform.”
Chapa has a heart for special needs families and hopes to use her reign as Miss MHB to bridge the gap between the UMHB community and the special needs community by educating students about everything.
Chapa hopes to get students involved in special needs-based clubs on campus, such as Best Buddies, which allows UMHB students to spend time with students in the special education programs at Belton and Temple High Schools.
“I want to get our Best Buddies involved with Revival and Reaching Out and Easter Pageant, allowing them to come to college and do college things because they don’t really get to do that,” Chapa said. “I want it to be a normal thing to say ‘one of my best friends has down syndrome’ and that not be anything out of the ordinary.”
But living out her platform isn’t the only thing Chapa is going to take away from the pageant. The experience allowed her to grow and see herself in a new way, as well as make new friends.
“Pageant is kind of like being put in a room full of mirrors until you know who you are and when you know you can come out,” Chapa said. “It’s vulnerable and exciting and scary. But I found myself and I’d never really been given the opportunity to do that.”
Chapa is thankful for her time in pageant and for the chance to share her ideas. She’s honored to be a voice for the special needs community and for the students at UMHB.
“It’s overwhelming and I don’t feel like I’m any different or anything,” Chapa said. “But I’m ready to represent this school because I love this school. If I can give back what it’s given to me then I’ve done my job.”