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.
She 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?
“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 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?
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 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