Miss College Park is ready to give back
Pageant winner will make debut at Maryland Day
In May, Elise Pittman will don a cap and gown when she receives her master's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
She wore a tiara and gown of a different sort Sunday afternoon when she was crowned Miss College Park.
Pittman, 22, was chosen from eight contestants at the 18th annual pageant, held at the American Legion Auxiliary in College Park. For her victory, she received a $2,000 scholarship.
"Besides the scholarship, it's a great way that I can give back to the community," Pittman said.
Pittman, originally from Sykesville, is scheduled to receive her master's degree in geospatial information sciences in May. She also earned her bachelor's at UM.
"I've been living in College Park for the last five years, and I hadn't really had a chance to explore outside of what the university offered," she said. "[Now] I have the ability to meet and greet the community that actually lives around the university and give something back."
As Miss College Park, Pittman will appear throughout the year at various parades, awards banquets and other community events and occasionally report her activities before the City Council.
The hectic schedule shouldn't be a problem for Pittman, said Cathy Carter, director of the University of Maryland's GIS graduate program.
"She is super responsible," Carter said. "I think you will find her to be probably the best Miss College Park you've seen."
Pittman and her fellow contestants were graded on their performance during an interview, evening gown competition and response to an on-stage question.
Contestants are incoming or current college students, usually from ages 17 to 24, said Angie Rodriguez, executive director of the pageant for all 18 of its years.
Due to cost issues and difficulty finding sponsors initially this year, Rodriguez limited the field to eight participants rather than the 15 or 16 seen in previous years but said interest was strong enough to return the pageant to its normal field next year.
A total of $4,150 in scholarship money was given to participants. Second-, third- and fourth-place winners received $500, $400 and $300, respectively, and no contestant won less than $150.
"It's really about awarding the scholarships to the young women so that they can continue their education," said Rodriguez. "We're looking for someone who understands community service and is not just there to take the scholarship and run."
Pittman won by showing eloquence, poise and a commitment to the city, Rodriguez said.
"She's a sweetheart," Rodriguez said. "This money was given to her through a lot of love and a lot of hard work, and she's willing to, in return, reciprocate that love and hard work."
That will start Saturday when Pittman makes her first public appearance as Miss College Park at the University of Maryland's 11th annual Maryland Day. She will also participate in the College Park Boys & Girls Club Parade on Sunday.
"One thing I would like to do is influence the younger generation toward becoming well rounded individuals, not only academically but also physically," Pittman said. "[It] should be exciting to get out there and meet new people."
E-mail David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.