The Miss Missouri Volunteer and Miss Missouri Teen Volunteer pageants, which belong to the national scholarship program Miss Volunteer America, launched this year with competitions that presented more than $25,000 in scholarships to winners. The events took place at the Ross Family Theatre at Kirkwood Performing Arts Center from Jan. 6 to 8.
At the statewide competition, Victoria Shore, Miss Mizzou Volunteer, was crowned Miss Missouri Volunteer. Greta Clark, Miss Forest Park Teen, was crowned Miss Missouri Teen Volunteer. Clark is set to compete in the first Miss Teen Volunteer America pageant in Jackson, Tennessee, on April 28 through 30. Shore will compete in the first Miss Volunteer America pageant in the same city on May 1 through 7.
Ladue’s Riley Obertino competed at the state level as Miss Saint Louis County in the competitive areas of private interview, talent, evening gown, fitness and wellness, and an onstage interview.
“I grew up a dancer – dancing for 16 years,” Obertino says. “Going on the stage and performing a solo wasn’t intimidating to me. It was the most enjoyable part. The interview portion … It was challenging, but in a good way. They push to figure out who you are and what your beliefs are … by not only answering a question, but making sure you had the proof behind [an answer, and] showing that you are a responsible, respectful woman that can take on this new position.”
Based in Tennessee, the Miss Volunteer America organization aims to elevate young women through five focal points: service, education, responsibility, volunteerism and empowerment – or S.E.R.V.E., as represented by the five points of the queen’s crown, according to a press release.
Pageant director Allison Alderson DeMarcus, who was crowned Miss Tennessee in 1999 and Miss Tennessee USA in 2002, founded Miss Volunteer America. After titleholders and participating state programs expressed outrage with leadership and program changes in the Miss America Organization, Tennessee founded its own statewide program in 2019 under DeMarcus’ leadership.
Obertino shares insight on how future participants can succeed in Miss Volunteer America pageants, recommending contestants have their families quiz them at home at random opportunities to better prepare candidates for those tougher categories in which they will be judged.
“Be yourself,” Obertino adds. “Don’t go put on fake nails and the spray tan and get hair extensions and hair dye. They want a woman who is truly herself and who loves herself – so, don’t change who you are.”
Miss Volunteer America provides participants with educational scholarships and opportunities, the press release states, with the principles of philanthropy and scholarship serving as its polestar, and giving pageant contestants an opportunity to build platforms based on what they believe is needed in their community.
Bree Bowen of St. Louis, a Miss Missouri Volunteer board member, says in the press release: “Some of the most valuable skills I use, both professionally and personally, I gained through pageants, as both a contestant and volunteer.”
Obertino comments on what she hopes for the future of the Miss Volunteer America organization: “I want to see strong, independent women reaching out not only to their communities but the nation as a whole, saying, ‘These are some of the issues, and here are ways that people can fix these problems. I’m okay with standing up for myself and showing that I’m a powerful woman [who] will give back to my country as it has given to me.’”
For information on future Miss Missouri Volunteer America pageant, visit missmissourivolunteer.com.