After countless hours of preparation, six students from NSU will compete for the title of Miss Louisiana 2017 June 18-24 at the Monroe Civic Center. Contestants arrive in Monroe for kick-off activities and preparation today.
NSU students competing are Miss Northwestern Lady of the Bracelet Maria Rome, Miss Natchitoches Stephanie Parker, Miss Benton Erika Jarlock, Miss Louisiana Port City Hannah Teutsch, Miss Bossier City Payton Curry and Miss Greater Baton Rouge Emily Jackson.
The Miss Louisiana pageant will be Rome’s second time competing in a pageant, with her first being Lady of the Bracelet.
The official NSU representative’s platform is Miracle League, an organization that gives special-needs children the chance to play baseball. Rome describes it as “something you want to go to” because of the connections one develops with the kids. She first became involved with the organization during her junior year of high school.
“As a volunteer, you’re paired with a child – that’s your buddy for the game,” Rome said. “They’re going to laugh and have fun and enjoy this experience just as much as any able-bodied child would. That’s the biggest takeaway I got from it… [Miracle League] gave me that passion for special-needs children and helped me decide my future career of occupational therapy.”
Miss Natchitoches Stephanie Parker is also a first-time competitor in Miss Louisiana, though it will be her third pageant overall.
Rather than finding a preexisting organization to endorse, the Phi Mu sister created her own platform, “The Royal Treatment.” She dresses as “Frozen” character Elsa and visits children who are sick.
“It’s so nice to see them smile knowing they’re in so much pain,” Parker said. “But just to put a smile on their face for just a few minutes – it makes my day. Sometimes I think they touch my life more than I touch theirs.”
Miss Benton Erika Jarlock is also competing in Miss Louisiana for the first time.
Her platform is “Reaching for the Arts: Keeping All Forms of Arts in Schools and Communities.” This choice stems from Jarlock seeing her father work with troubled youth and her own experiences through her high school’s theater program.
“It’s sad that things like [extracurricular arts] are being eradicated from schools all over our state,” Jarlock said. “What I want to accomplish most is just bring to schools’ attention how vital it is that we keep these programs in.
“It sounds really cliché, but it keeps kids off the street,” she laughed. “It keeps them in school doing something they love; they can focus their attention on something good and give back.”
Though the aforementioned competitors are new to the Miss Louisiana pageant, Miss Louisiana Port City Hannah Teutsch will compete for her third time.
Her first two times at Miss Louisiana, Teutsch felt as though she held herself back. This time around, she is ready to “get on the stage and share [her] story with the judges and the audience, and just let it all go.”
Teutsch’s platform is called “Serve Your City,” which helps homeless, neglected and sexually abused people throughout the Shreveport community, and she hopes this initiative can spread throughout Louisiana. Her platform stems from her experience volunteering with the Urban Youth Ministries, where she had the opportunity to intern during her senior year of high school.
“‘Serve Your City’ isn’t just about the children who live in poverty,” Teutsch said. “It’s really about anyone that’s forgotten about and pushed aside. ‘Serve Your City’ aims to bring awareness to that and to educate and encourage people to understand that [human trafficking] is here. It’s not just in big cities.”
Although pageants often are criticized for being about good looks and talent, Miss Louisiana requires a lot of preparation. Each contestant completes a 10-minute interview about topics ranging from politics to pop culture, and everything in between is fair game.
Jarlock and Parker shared how they are preparing for their interviews.
“I have a whole binder filled with questions that I read over and have friends ask me questions,” Parker said.
“My friends and mom will text, or call, and ask a question that I have to answer in 30 seconds,” Jarlock said.
Tune in to the Miss Louisiana finals round on June 24 at 8 p.m. to cheer on contestants from NSU. The pageant will broadcast statewide and will air on KLAX in Alexandria, KPXJ in Shreveport, KATC in Lafayette and Lake Charles, WUPL in New Orleans and WBTR in Baton Rouge.