Never give up on your dreams is the advice of Scholars Academy standout and newly crowned Miss South Carolina Teen 2016 Makayla Stark.
“I first had the dream to be Miss South Carolina Teen when I was six years old,” said Stark. “I then competed for five years before I actually won!”
Participating in the pageant definitely taught her to never give up on her dreams, but she also noted that her involvement in the Scholars Academy at the University of South Carolina Upstate has contributed to her growing confidence and leadership opportunities because of the similarities in purpose and focus of both organizations, specifically the supportive environment, the non-stereotypical approach and by creating a path to personal and professional success in a relevant forward-thinking public program.
“Both programs are the same in that it takes hard work and dedication to be successful,” emphasized Stark. “The Scholars Academy has allowed me scholastic and leadership opportunities that have helped me be a representative for the Miss South Carolina organization, while participation in both has made (college) scholarship opportunities available to me.”
Of course, Scholars Academy director Melissa DeLoach is not at all surprised by Stark’s success at being crowned Miss South Carolina Teen or at excelling within the Scholars Academy program.
“Makayla is one of the most poised, sincere young ladies I have ever met,” she offered. “She works very hard academically in college classes as part of the Scholars Academy and has a positive attitude that is evident daily in her interactions with peers and teachers.”
The rising senior has also applied her diligent work ethic and leadership strengths in serving as a tutor and mentor for younger Scholars Academy students for the past two years, added DeLoach.
Helping others is another example of the crossover of purpose Stark shares between the two programs. As part of the Miss South Carolina Teen competition, she has found a platform of service that allows her to use her abilities in making life-changing differences.
“I’m a firm believer that by helping others accomplish their goals, you ultimately achieve yours,” she stressed. “My platform, ‘Let Girls Learn,’ is a government initiative that partners with the Peace Corps to give girls from around the world more educational opportunities.”
The fact that 62 million girls across the globe are not in school because of social, cultural and even environmental problems in their countries was pivotal for Stark as she “realized that my sisters from around the world have the same dreams and passions that I do, but no means to achieve them. That is why I have dedicated my year (as Miss South Carolina Teen 2016) to raising awareness and funds for “Let Girls Learn.’”
As she begins her year as Miss South Carolina Teen and prepares for her senior year in high school, Stark shares that she eventually wants to earn her doctorate in psychology and work as a child life specialist.
“Not matter what, though, I just want to be content in where I am,” she said. “There are different seasons for different parts in our life, and I’m excited for each stage!”
Stark recently competed in the Miss America Outstanding Teen competition where she received an award for having the highest grade point average among the contestants.