Miss UNCP Jessica Reed was given an official campus send-off as the rising junior heads off for Miss North Carolina competition June 20-22 in Raleigh.
It is the first time in 10 years that Miss UNCP will compete for the state title.
If Miss Reed is successful, she will take the crown from Lorna McNeill, another UNCP student. She would also be the second consecutive Miss North Carolina of Native American descent.
"It's absolutely been an experience of a lifetime," Ms. Reed said. "It's an opportunity to influence lives through my platform - child mentoring."
Miss Reed, who plans to major in elementary education, hails from Laurinburg. She was surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers at the reception held in the Givens Performing Arts Center.
A pageant veteran, Ms. Reed appeared poised and ready. Her competition wardrobe was on display at the reception.
"She was nervous earlier, but as the competition gets closer, and as Jessica gets mentally prepared, the nerves go away," said Ms. Reed's father Stuart. "I will be very nervous."
Mr. Reed has long ties to UNCP. He is nephew of the late Bertine Prine, assistant to five UNCP chancellors before her retirement in the early 1990s.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Diane Jones said the appearance of Miss UNCP in the Miss North Carolina pageant is a good thing.
"It is a great experience for Jessica, and a good for all of our students," Dr. Jones said. "Like the Miss UNCP pageant, this is a scholarship pageant, and contestants have the opportunity to apply for many scholarships just by appearing."
"Having a contestant on the Miss North Carolina stage gives UNCP positive exposure," she said. "We are confident Jessica will do just fine."
Ms. Reed has spent the last few months preparing physically and mentally. She has worked out with a personal trainer, polished her clogging routine and practiced interviewing skills.
The contestants will compete in five categories, including talent, private interview, swimsuit, evening gown and on-stage interview.
"She's ready," said Mr. Reed with the smile of a proud father.