When Amalia Schwerdtmann, board chairman of Miss Illinois Scholarship Association, talks about her initial involvement with the Miss Illinois pageant, she first mentions that she was a hostess for Miss Illinois starting in 1995. Then she quickly mentions that she ran a local pageant as well.
"I have the perspective from being board chairman to running a local," Amalia says.
For Amalia, the locals are what give the Miss Illinois program its strength. The core purpose of the organization, based in Lake in the Hills, is to help provide the young women of Illinois who compete in its local and state programs with opportunities to enhance their personal and professional development through the organization's scholarship programs.
"We really listen to local directors for their ideas to obtain what they want and need in order to make Illinois successful under the Miss America umbrella," Amalia says.
Being successful goes beyond the pageant to being financially successful. Illinois pageant officials are willing to change, to learn from mistakes. It's critical for the pageant to be fiscally responsible for its own existence, along with helping the young women and their families in tough economic times.
"You don't want the parents to have to pay for things when their daughters are competing in scholarship programs," Amalia says. "We always try to get sponsorships. We're fortunate with the directors we have. We're fortunate with donors we have, the sponsors. Bridal Elegance and Pageantry is one of our largest sponsors. We're very blessed."
These blessings come about from a lot of hard work.
"We follow the successful old adage of knocking on doors and making phone calls," Amalia says. "The program runs a golf outing every year, sells tickets to the pageant program, and offers a princess program. There were forty-three princesses last year, its fifth. The Miss Illinois mentoring program is a non-competitive mentoring program."
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