CALS Alumna Competes for the Crown at Miss America 2022

This year commemorates the 85th anniversary of the Miss Florida Organization, a subset of the Miss America Organization, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Miss America Organization is a nationally recognized non-profit organization and is the largest provider of scholarships to young women in the world. UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Science (CALS) alumna, Leah Roddenberry, a spring 2021 graduate from the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department earned several thousand dollars in scholarship monies from the Miss Florida Organization to use to alleviate the financial costs associated with furthering her education.

Competing in the Miss Florida competition included a 10-minute personal interview, talent, on-stage intervention, a social impact pitch, and red carpet wear pageant. Leah shared said she has always loved performing, especially as a member of the Dazzler dance team cheering on the Florida Gators at athletic events, and for the Miss Florida competition, she performed a high-energy jazz dance for her talent. Leah was crowned Miss Florida in June and in the time leading up to the Miss America competition, she has been committed to her role as Miss Florida.

Leah Roddenberry, Miss Florida with Miss University of Florida and childShe said it has been a full-time job and has deferred from law school at Belmont College of Law in Nashville, Tennessee to dedicate her year of service traveling across the Sunshine State. Leah has been busy making appearances and promoting various initiatives including visiting schools to educate students about the Everglades Foundation and the dangers of drug and alcohol use through Advanced Recovery System’s REAL TALK educational program.


What inspired you to compete for Miss Florida?
The Miss Florida Organization has a mentorship program called the Sunshine Princess Program for young girls between the ages of 6 and 12. I became a princess when I was 6 and fell in love with the organization. I soon realized the young women that participate are extremely well-rounded, intelligent, talented, and service-oriented. I had incredible role models to look up to, including Laura Rutledge, Miss Florida 2012 and fellow UF graduate. The Miss Florida Organization prepares great women for the world and the world for great women.

I am a testament to how the organization transforms young women to gain the confidence and leadership skills to pursue their dreams unapologetically. While I was an extremely shy young girl, through this organization, I have learned to use my voice, cultivate my passions, and lead other young women to do the same.” – Leah Roddenberry

Leah Roddenberry holding award with President FuchsLeah has been recognized by the University for her strong leadership skills, skills she credits the Miss Florida Organization for developing. Before her her graduation, she was selected as an outstanding leader by UF Alumni Association and UF Honors Program, an award given to only six graduating seniors across the entire University.

How did your experiences in UF and CALS prepare you for this opportunity?
When I took my very first class in CALS I loved the positive and supportive environment from my classmates and the faculty and staff. I instantly felt that CALS was a college that wanted each student to thrive and succeed, rather than just being a number. CALS provides so many opportunities for its students to grow and get involved both in and out of the classroom. UF had a huge influence on preparing me for the job of Miss Florida. When I stepped foot on the UF campus for the first time, my eyes were opened to endless opportunities to grow, transform, and become a stronger, more independent version of myself. I also found incredible community at the University of Florida from the Dazzlers Dance Team, Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and various student leadership positions on campus. These opportunities allowed me to gain new experiences and immerse myself in diverse communities. Being at a Top 5 Public University and being immersed in the prestige of the Gator Nation pushed me to be my best self in all areas.

While she wasn’t aware of the major before coming across it by happenstance and meeting with Kate Fletcher, lecturer and faculty advisor in the department, Leah said she fell in love with the ways she could use her degree in family, youth and community sciences to make a difference in her community. She appreciated the interactive aspects of the major and learned how to address the needs of communities in a way that could be applied in various work settings. She encourages students interested in family, youth and community sciences to keep an open mind when entering UF and explore all of the available options.

“The FYCS community is incredible, and I loved the fact that I developed relationships with my classmates over the past 4 years and shared many classes with so many of them! You get to feel part of a smaller community while on the large UF campus which I loved.” – Leah Roddenberry
What are you most excited about for your experiences as Miss Florida?
I am most excited for the opportunities to inspire individuals from all walks of life. My social impact initiative is entitled Be a LeadHer which works to engage, empower, and equip young women to be leaders in their lives and communities. I look forward to propelling this initiative even further and spreading this message on a national scale. I love speaking to young women about being engaged in their communities and pursuing their dreams.
“I would advise every young woman to participate in this organization because it’s not about the crown and sash, it’s about the tangible impacts you can make in your community and the ways you grow to be the best version of you!” – Leah Roddenberry
Leah said she is most excited about the 100th anniversary of the Miss America pageant and representing Florida in December. The Miss America Competition will take place on Thursday, December 16, 2021. Be sure to tune in and cheer on CALS alumna Leah Roddenberry in her pursuit for the Miss America crown.

Posted: November 15, 2021

Category: UF/IFAS Teaching, Work & Life
Tags: CALS Alumni, FYCS, Miss America, Miss Florida

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