Photo Gallery | Miss Vermont visits The Centers for Living and Rehabilitation
BENNINGTON — With two weeks left under the crown, Miss Vermont 2015 took a second stop into Bennington on Tuesday.
Alayna Westcom visited residents at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's Centers for Living and Rehabilitation (CLR). Everyone had the opportunity to get a photo with her in her crown and sash and ask questions.
In the past year, Westcom traveled over 35,000 miles, visited 230 out of Vermont's 251 towns, walked on Miss America's stage, spoke in schools, judged a pie eating contest, milked a cow, visited maple syrup making houses, and assisted a miniature horse race, to name a few.
Many of these appearances aren't out of the ordinary considering her small, suburban hometown of Bakersfield, and her experience with her father's traditional maple syrup making operation.
Westcom made an appearance at the CLR just after she was first crowned in April 2015.
Many commented on her beauty.
Westcom herself reflected on her six years of education in forensic science and how she plans to go to medical school to become a pathologist, or forensic doctor. Currently, she works with medical examiners and performs autopsies after an individual dies.
"I get to learn more about my own body, but also give families answers after their loved one passes away," she said. "When my grandmother died from cancer my family didn't get an autopsy and I was curious if she died from a complication or something other than cancer. That way, I can learn about it and figure out if my body is in danger from something that's passed on."
She said her work days are always different, and that's what she loves about it.
Westcom's favorite part about Vermont is how each town reminds her of her own, and the community aspect they hold.
"I know how it feels and how important your community is," she said. "No matter where you go, you're always around family or someone you know. There's just so many different people and ways of life whether it's visiting a sugar house or attending a corporate event."
In order to run in the Miss America pageant, contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 24. Westcom ran for nine years before getting crowned at the last possible age of 24.
As a winner, contestants aren't given money, but monetary gifts that are tailored to the individual. For example, Westcom is able to go back to school because the foundation paid for her tuition bills.
Over 10,000 young women participate in the program at local, state, and national levels to gather 52 national finalist who compete for the Miss America title, according to the organization's website. Westcom held the Vermont title for 13 months due to this year's pageant being pushed back.
For Westcom's talent segment of the contest, she conducted a science experiment and made foam flow out of beakers that were supposed to sport red, white, and blue colors. She even won an award for the most entertaining talent and was the first ever participant to present the task.
"I wanted to prove that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is very important for children to learn about," she said. "We encounter them in our everyday lives and students should have background knowledge of it."
When she visits schools, she preaches about working hard for what is important to you and that it's worth working for.
"I wanted to be Miss Vermont since I was 9 years old," she said. "When I go into schools I tell people that it's okay to be different and that you can do what you feel is right for yourself. People tell me I don't look like a scientist, but when I put on my lab coat and glasses, I look like one. It doesn't matter your gender, race, age or ethnicity."
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.