Rachel Demaree balances a busy career as a Senate staffer on Capitol Hill with that of Purdue University College of Agriculture major (via distance education this year). This spring, she added to her hectic schedule when she entered the Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Pageant--part of the Miss America Organization--and advanced to the finals.
Demaree says pageants help her grow as a professional and hone leadership and communication skills. Equally important is the opportunity to serve philanthropic causes. “I truly see pageants as opportunities for young women to serve as role models for their communities and to take on issues that they care about and can offer their voice and exposure to help,” she said on her blog.
Her dedication to community service did not go unnoticed in the pageant. She received the Miss DC Pageant Volunteerism Award during the June 17 finals. Her platform for the competition was “Farm to Fork: Let’s Eat!” Demaree’s goal is for district residents to understand modern production agriculture and how the food supply goes from farm to fork. She also frequents local farmers markets and believes they provide a way to link consumers and producers.
Demaree also coordinated the first annual Mr. District of Columbia Pageant, which raised $7,700 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the national platform for the Miss America Organization. Demaree’s contestant was Purdue alumnus and former student body president Brett Highley.
She used her role as a princess to bring attention to Indiana agriculture. Demaree called on agribusiness contacts she made as an FFA state officer and developed an educational program. She then visited schools and passed out age-appropriate materials and a pint of milk for every child.
During her reign, Demaree also organized a Girls Night Out event through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Demaree, who had been a “big sister” since 2009, created a program that recognized the individual qualities and potential of “little sisters.” She recruited other Purdue royalty--Miss Indiana 2009, Miss Purdue University 2010 and three other 500 princesses--and women’s basketball standout Brittany Rayburn to serve as positive role models and mentors.
Due to negative stereotypes, Demaree said some people will never understand why she is involved in pageants. “I faced these preconceptions in my own preparation, and it was difficult for me to ignore,” she wrote in her June 20 blog. “But at the end of the day, I know the truth. I know that real ‘pageant girls’ are Fulbright scholars, athletes and professionals. They have very grown-up jobs and are doing things in their communities that people twice their age would never have the influence or platform to accomplish. And crown or no crown, they are making choices in their lives that are going to make them the best people they can be.”
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