Miss Fort Hays State to make appearance at Tiger spring football game

Miss FHSU 2016

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- She was excited and honored to be named homecoming queen at Fort Hays State University last fall. Imagine how Sierra Archer must have felt when she learned that honor earned her the chance to compete for the title of Miss Kansas.

Because of a new selection process for homecoming queen candidates last year, Archer qualified to compete as Miss Fort Hays State in the Miss Kansas Pageant, set for June 7-11 in Pratt.

Archer, a junior from Valley Center, is ecstatic about representing her university at the Miss Kansas Pageant, which selects the state's representative in the Miss America Pageant. And she hopes the rest of the FHSU family jumps on board as well.

One certainly has.

"Having a Miss Fort Hays State for the first time in the history of the Miss Kansas pageant recognizes the importance of our university as a part of Kansas," said Dr. Mirta M. Martin, president of Fort Hays State. "I think that's very significant."

Saturday happens to be Miss America Serves Day, and Archer has chosen the Tigers' annual football scrimmage as her venue for her service project. The scrimmage, free to the public, normally is played in Lewis Field Stadium. But it most likely will be moved inside to the Schmidt-Bickle Training Facility because of a forecast that includes rain and high winds.

Game time is noon, with doors opening at 11:30 a.m.

Donation jars will be available at the entrance for contributions to the Children's Miracle Network, Miss Kansas' national philanthropic partnership. Archer will have a table set up at the event to greet people, and fans will have the opportunity to take a photo with Miss Fort Hays State.

Archer has also organized other fundraisers, including a barbecue with a fraternity, but she especially is looking forward to Saturday's activities, where she will give a talk, and "be able to explain what this is all about." She also will get to know Fort Hays State supporters, and vice versa.

Archer works at Washington Connections, a Head Start program in Hays USD 489, and is passionate about "the impact a quality preschool education can have on a child." She has chosen as her pageant platform "Equal Valued and Early Education: Bridging the Achievement Gap." Her talent number also will involve the Head Start program; it's a monologue that Archer wrote herself about her experiences working with children in the Head Start program.

Fort Hays State will have two students competing for 2016 Miss Kansas honors. Kelsey Cohoon, a sophomore from Jetmore, was crowned Miss Cowboy Capital earlier this year in Dodge City to advance to the Miss Kansas Pageant.

While Cohoon has chosen a different venue for her Miss America Serves Day project, she too will be present at the Tiger football scrimmage because she is a Fort Hays State cheerleader.

"It is an honor to have not just one student, but two of our students, who will be competing in this pageant," Martin said. "They both do us a great deal of honor."

Archer said she was "shocked" when she received an email from the Miss Kansas organization, saying she was eligible to compete this year because of her homecoming queen title.

Archer was encouraged by her mom to give it a try.

"When I got the email, I first called my mom, and she was really excited," Archer said. "She thought it was a great opportunity for me. It wasn't something I automatically said yes to, but her opinion pushed me to do it."

Archer said she is "very excited that there are two" Fort Hays State students competing at the Miss Kansas Pageant this year.

"It gives us a better chance to show people we can still compete, even if we're not in a major metropolitan city," she said.

Plus, the two already knew each other.

"I've really enjoyed working with her," Archer said of Cohoon, a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. "I can ask questions and get advice from her."

Archer got the chance to even consider competing for Miss Kansas because of a change in format for nomination candidates for the FHSU homecoming queen.

In the past, potential candidates filled out an application, and the student body voted on them. Last fall, a committee made up of university personnel screened the applications, then chose some for interviews.

"Because we went through that interview process, that qualified the (FHSU) homecoming queen to compete in Miss Kansas," Archer said.

One major responsibility for Miss Fort Hays State is raising her own money for the Children's Miracle Network and personal expenses, which is somewhat different from contestants who are crowned queens from scholarship pageants.

"Once you win a local pageant, you already have a team, and you have directors and mentors and coaches who train you right off the bat," Archer said. "They have a little posse to help them get connections and get sponsors. For me, it was very different. I had my homecoming queen title, but it doesn't come with directors or anything like that."

While Archer said she has had a lot of support through Fort Hays State, she has done most of her fundraising herself online. Information for making donations can be found on the Miss Fort Hays State Facebook page.

Archer has hit the road hard this spring trying to secure sponsorships.

Archer -- who founded the FHSU honor society, Society of Leadership and Achievement -- is also a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, a member of Delta Zeta sorority and vice president for the Order of Omega, a Greek leadership honor society.

"I think it speaks volumes to her commitment, to be able to have a platform and showcase it while having to do her own fundraising" while working toward her degree in speech and language pathology, Martin said. "There is really no internal structure set up this year to be able to fully support her in the manner some of these other ladies have. They come from towns and municipalities that have been doing this for years, and they have the support system established.

"Next year," Martin added, "we're hoping through the homecoming committee that chooses the homecoming king and queen candidates we can create a mechanism where we can support in a stronger manner the next Miss Fort Hays State."

Even though this new venture has added more responsibilities to an already busy schedule, Archer said she is embracing the opportunity.

"It's something no one here has done before," she said. "I would like homecoming queens in the future to be able to have this opportunity. I wanted to be the frontrunner in that process.

"And it's a great opportunity for me to grow as a person," she added. "In the short couple of months I've been doing this, I've already grown a lot and learned a lot. It's a lot of preparation, but it's not just preparation for the pageant. It's preparation for life."

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