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Prayer leads to pageant

Alyssa Paulsen of Latham was crowned Miss Illinois in the state round of the USA Ambassador Pageant while finishing up her sophomore year at Wheaton College in Chicago. She was attracted to the pageant because of its focus on community service, something that’s important to her.

Alyssa Paulsen of Latham was crowned Miss Illinois in the state round of the USA Ambassador Pageant while finishing up her sophomore year at Wheaton College in Chicago. She was attracted to the pageant because of its focus on community service, something that’s important to her. Submitted Photo

— It all started with a prayer.

“Literally, the day that I prayed that prayer, pageants popped into my head,” said Alyssa Paulsen of Latham.

Paulsen, who had just completed her sophomore year at Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts school in Chicago, was stumped. She had returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti and was feeling “down, almost depressed” without a community service project. She’d prayed for a way to give back to people in the U.S. How could pageants possibly be the answer?

But like she always does when receiving an answer to a prayer, Paulsen listened. She did a search for pageants and stumbled upon the USA Ambassador Pageant. It was perfect.

“It was super community service oriented,” said Paulsen.

In fact, it was far different from the two pageants she’d competed in back in middle school. Instead of glitz and glamour, the focus was on being a strong role model and adhering to the motto SLICC—Success through Leadership, Integrity, Character and Confidence.

She hoped she would fit the mold, and she did. Paulsen was crowned Miss Illinois and will head to Tampa July 26 to 29 to compete at the national level.

“Alyssa is certainly quite the role model with all the community service and volunteer work she participates in for various causes. One of the key components with us is we look for people to represent our motto,” said Barbara Thurston, a national director with the pageant. “She really has all the characteristics we look for.”

The USA Ambassador Pageant isn’t devoid of “typical” pageantry. There’s an evening wear and fashion wear round, as well as interview, onstage conversation, fun chat and a long list of optional categories like acting, talent, spokesmodeling and more.

Paulsen’s main focus isn’t finding the perfect gown or crafting winning interview answers — although, she’s not ignoring those completely. She’s most excited about sharing her platform.

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