West Virginia University student Carolyn Jennings has one major wishto bring the Miss West Virginia USA title home to WVU . She will get that chance next weekend (Oct. 3-5) in Sutton when she and about 30 other contestants contend for the crown, scholarship/prize package and a chance to compete for Miss USA in March.

A senior broadcast journalism major, Jennings is the 21-year-old daughter of Tom and Rita Jennings and a 2000 graduate of McDowell High School in Erie, Pa. She has been honored by Who’s Who Among High School Students and National Society of Collegiate Scholars. WVU has also recognized her achievements, awarding her the WVU Presidential Scholar award and Gilbert and Margaret Love Scholarship.

“This is a huge personal goal for me,she said.It’s something that I’ve devoted a lot of time, energy and hard work to, so to win it would mean I could truly say the hard work does pay off.

Along with representing the state at regional and national events, Miss West Virginia USA will be expected to take an active role in promoting literacy, a youth anti-drug campaign and ovarian and breast cancer research, said Jennings, who has been competing in beauty pageants since she was 13.

Since the pageant fell during my fall semester, it seemed easier to compete in a state where I spend most of my time. I love WVU , and Im in West Virginia working toward the best possible education and thats what Im getting. Im happy to represent a state that is preparing me for my future. It just made sense to me.

Throughout the pageant, judges will be looking for young women who possess poise, personality, intelligence and beauty. Jennings will compete in three different categories: personal interview, swimwear and evening gown. The interview is one of the most important aspects of the competition, according to the WVU student.

“It takes away the superficial aspects and lets them meet me,”she said,”and the judges then can put a personality with the face.

As a model and former Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA runner-up, Jennings is used to the spotlight. She has appeared in numerous advertisements and modeled for Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Lord&Taylor and QVC . She landed a role in a commercial for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and has been featured in televised fashion segments on WJET -TV24 in Erie. As a teenager, she got involved in pageants as a way to showcase her musical talent.

“I play the violin and had just started modeling. The pageant gave me an audience and I gained confidence in myself, which I didn’t have before. Like most girls at that age, I was insecure and felt awkward,she said.

The experience paid off and she was crowned Pennsylvania Young Miss of America. Other titles soon followed including National Young Miss of America. Jennings has also been a runner-up in the Teen Miss Erie, Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA , Ms. American United States and Miss Teen of the Nation Pageants.

“I’m one of those people who thrives under pressure and I love the fast paced excitement of pageants,she said.I’m not sure what makes me most nervous. The whole thing is intimidating, but I’ll take it one step at a time and roll with the punches. There is a ton of stuff a girl needs to compete in a pageant like thiswardrobe, gowns, shoes, makeup, knowledge of world and current events and a strong sense of self. You have to be prepared for everything and anything. I bring an extra gown and bathing suit because you never know what could go wrong.

Ultimately, Jennings hopes her modeling and pageant experience will catapult her to stardom in the entertainment industry.

My dream job would be to work for MTV , the Entertainment Channel E!, VH1 or the Style network. Working with one of these networks would encompass all of the things I lovemusic, fashion, film and broadcasting. Of course, Im willing to start anywhere in order to get experience,she said.

For now, however, her immediate focus is on winning the Miss West Virginia USA title. As she makes last-minute preparations, she has some advice for young girls who may be considering the pageant life.

“They should be prepared to work very hard. Also, they need to have faith and confidence in themselves and they’ll be successful, win or lose. What you put into it is what you will take away.

I believe anybody can do anything they want to. No one needs a crown and a sash to get involved in the community and to help others. Having a title like Miss West Virginia simply draws more attention to the girl who is giving to the community, but that doesn’t make her work any more important than anyone else’s.”