Miss Vermont Alayna Westcom visits Centers for Living and Rehabilitation

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BENNINGTON >> Residents of the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation at SVMC were eating lunch when into the dining room walked Alayna Westcom.

Two and a half weeks ago, Westcom, 23, was a laboratory scientist with a dream to win a statewide competition. Standing in the halls of SVMC yesterday, Westcom was proud to announce that she is the new Miss Vermont.

"The crown is what people tend to focus on because there's so much sparkle in it," she said to one resident of the rehab center as she made rounds through the dining room.

Westcom wore a summery blue shirt and bright pink jeans to go with the pink flowers around her neck and the 'Miss Vermont 2015' sash over her right shoulder. Countless residents complimented her on her beauty and showed deep interest in where she came from in the state.

"You'll find me just below Canada, born and raised," said Westcom, a native of Bakersfield.

Now that she has been crowned Miss Vermont 2015, she will compete in the nationally televised Miss America 2016 competition this September. Vermont has never had a Miss America to bring back the title before, so Westcom said confidently that she plans to be the first. So far, Vermont is one of only three states this year to have crowned its victor to continue to the national event this fall.

According to Cynthia Ellison, the rehab center's activities director, she and the center's three-patient resident council discussed bringing a taste of Miss America to the center at their last monthly meeting. Many of the residents told her about how they sat around the television with their friends and families years ago to watch the national event.

"Is she going to wear her crown?" was the phrase echoed most by residents when they learned of Westcom's visit, said Ellison. One resident told Westcom to remember to drink at least one glass of milk per day and to represent what it means to be from Vermont for the rest of the state.

As each Miss America contestant must perform a talent in front of millions of television viewers in September, Westcom will be doing a science experiment. She has a degree in forensic science and post-baccalaureate certification in medical laboratory science, and now works at the Northwestern Medical Center as a medical technologist and at the UVM Medical Center as an autopsy technician.

For the pageant, her talent will be to produce large quantities of foam from beakers and form a tower that shoots up into the air.

"As I visit schools, I continue to see a drop in interest for STEM careers compared to when I was in elementary school," Westcom said in a press release. She visited Bennington Elementary School earlier in the day.

Westcom's dramatic rendering of a science experiment serves to show that science is relatable, she said, adding that she intends to encourage teachers and educators to change the way science is taught in schools nationwide.

Jacob Colon can be reached at jcolon@benningtonbanner.com or (802) 447-7567 ext. 118.


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