An Arkansas woman who has eyes on earning a master’s degree in public service at the Clinton School of Public Service will represent her state at this year’s Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Maggie Benton, 22, was crowned the new Miss Arkansas on Saturday night.

According to her blog, her pageant platform is “Giving a Gift,” a message she developed over a period of several years as the result of her involvement with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. “When we can share with others, our kind acts reach far beyond here and now,” she wrote.

“Philanthropy is more than donating financially. It is serving and giving your time and resources.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. Her minor is in journalism, advertising, and public relations. She qualified for the state pageant by being named Miss Greater Jonesboro.

Arkansas a top pageant state

If crowned Miss America, she will become the fourth contestant from Arkansas to earn the national title. The reigning Miss America, Savvy Shields, won the national pageant after reigning as Miss Arkansas. Other former national title winners from the state are Elizabeth Ward (1982) and Donna Axum (1964). Over the past 10 years, eight contestants from Arkansas have finished as the top miss, a runner-up or a semi-finalist.

Miss America 2018

This year’s Miss America pageant begins Sept. 6 with three days of preliminary competition. On Sept. 9, contestants will take a break from pageantry to participate in the Show Us Your Shoes parade. A new Miss America will be crowned on Sept. 10. The final night of pageantry and the crowning will be televised live by the ABC television network.

Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen Pageant

Also supported by the Arkansas pageant is the Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen pageant. The competition is the younger sister pageant within the Miss America Organization. Contestants are ages 12-17 years old. They compete for scholarships and prizes in categories similar to those of the Miss America pageant.

An exception is the swimsuit competition. The teen contestants compete in active wear. Winners at the state level compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. This year’s teen miss from Arkansas is Aubrey Elizabeth Reed. Until receiving the state title, she was the reigning Miss Lake Dardanelle’s Outstanding Teen. If she wins the national crown, Aubrey will become the first contestant to from Arkansas to win the title since the state began participating in the national pageant in 2005. The state has fielded three contestants who were chosen runners-up. Last year’s contestant from Arkansas, Emily Brewer, was a Teens in Action finalist at the national competition.