Cassandra Collins is a veteran in pageant circles, having held various titles, and says the activity helps participants overcome numerous fears.
The 24-year-old Barrie native has competed in pageants for eight years. She's a full-time medical administration student, a two-year program she's studying online through Loyalist College, in addition to being a part-time pageant coach.
Collins, who has held two other regional titles over the last couple of years, including Miss Galaxy Barrie and National Canadian Miss Simcoe County, has her eyes set on a Miss Southern Ontario title, as part of the Canadian Ambassador pageant system, which was started this year by Brenda Paco.
The pageant's sole focus is empowerment and confidence building, Collins says.
Three of her students will also be competing in the pageant with her, including five-year-old Payton for Little Miss Southern Ontario, Yani for Jr. Miss Southern Ontario, and Paige for Jr. Miss Simcoe County.
"I wanted these girls to compete with me at the national pageant because I believe this journey builds confidence, overcomes shyness and teaches young women that they are empowered and capable," Collins said.
"In coaching these little ones, I already see a fantastic change in their ability to communicate with new people, willingness to be involved in the community and to be a voice," she added.
Delegates represent their local area now until the national pageant held in Burlington this July.
"From there, we will compete for a larger title that allows us to represent the entire system for the year," Collins said.
"This competition goes far beyond facial beauty and the focus is more on your willingness to help others," she added. "Volunteerism is a major criteria in holding a national title. You will often see the girls and I out in the community helping various events and supporting local businesses."
Collins is also seeking sponsorships. Anyone interested in helping her out in that regard can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Costs of volunteering and competition can get very high," she said. "These expenses add up and we are encouraged to seek sponsorship from local businesses where possible."