How did a Missouri native end up as Miss Greater Wichita and then Miss Kansas, moving toward a shot at being crowned Miss America?
By working her way through college, including at a Kansas university.
Last year, Amanda Sasek earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Missouri while holding down four jobs. She is now a graduate student in political science at the University of Kansas.
And on Saturday night, she was crowned Miss Kansas.
“As an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to be a Jayhawk,” Sasek said. “It was my first choice for graduate school. I packed up and moved my minivan out to Kansas. I had no friends or family that lived in Kansas, but it has come to be my new home, and I want to represent my home.”
Earlier this year, the 23-year-old qualified for the Miss Kansas pageant by winning the Miss Greater Wichita contest. Women who compete in the state pageant must first win a local competition, according to Lauren Werhan, communications manager for the state pageant. Although there are several local pageants throughout Kansas, some include rules stating that only women competing from that area can qualify. Wichita is one of the pageants where any woman in Kansas can compete.
This isn’t Sasek’s first pageant.
She was Miss Heartland 2013, representing Miss Missouri that year. And she was Miss Midland Empire in 2012.
She has dreamed of becoming Miss America since she was 3 years old, according to the Miss Heartland 2013 website.
As Sasek competed in the Miss Kansas competition, she won two of the preliminary awards: the talent award on Thursday night, singing “Out Here on My Own,” a song from “Fame,” and the lifestyle and fitness award on Friday night.
Thirty-one women competed for the state title.
“I gave everything my all,” Sasek said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “I’ve been preparing for months. I was confident in my performances. I had positive feedback from the judges.”
On Saturday night, Sasek and the other finalists were asked what values they would promote throughout 2014.
Her service platform is called S.O.S. (Survivors Overcoming Suicide) – Reaching Out.
She founded it, she said Sunday, based on her own story. Her father committed suicide when she was 17. Her grandfather had committed suicide when her father was 14.
Both suicides left the family devastated.
“It was a hard, difficult time. I was getting ready to graduate from high school. And news comes that changes your life significantly,” Sasek said of her father’s death. “It was horribly difficult, not knowing resources or who to talk with. I went through intensive counseling for a couple of years before I could openly talk about it. I want to fix that so other people know what to do and know the resources.”
Sasek replaces the 2013 Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, a section leader in her Kansas Army National Guard Medical Detachment, spokesman for “Suburban Woodsman” and founder of Miss Outdoor Girl.
“Theresa and I are a lot alike,” Sasek said. “We are true to ourselves. We are real. The Miss Kansas organization promotes young women who are true to themselves.”
Sasek plans on earning a master’s degree and doctorate in political science.
With the Miss Kansas title, Sasek will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
The Miss America pageant will be in Atlantic City, N.J., in September.