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Western Mass. resident eyes Miss America crown

West Springfield native Alicia Zitka is crowned as the 2008 Miss Massachusetts. She will be competing in the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas in January 2009. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD Since placing second runner-up at last year's Miss Massachusetts Pageant, Alicia Zitka came back with the fierce intensity that has earned her the crown of the 2008 Miss Massachusetts.

Focusing primarily on improving her public speaking, interview skills and platform which she felt were the weakest points and armed with a positive attitude, Zitka was able to evolve into a 21st century "IT Girl."

"This organization [Miss Massachusetts] is really looking for that IT Girl factor: young women who are not only intelligent but somebody who is really current and hot and a positive role model," Nicole Pajer, executive director of the Miss Western Massachusetts Pageant, said. "I describe Alicia as having a classic elegance with a modern flare."

Pajer noted that Zitka, a West Springfield native, is the first contestant from Western Massachusetts to win Miss Massachusetts in over 10 years.

"I'm very excited and overwhelmed [having won the crown]," Zitka said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I didn't expect anything. I was so shocked to win. This is such a blessing."

As the winner of Miss Massachusetts, Zitka will be advancing to the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas in January 2009.

Zitka explained that since last year's competition she has been putting in many volunteer hours, which allowed her to strengthen her platform, "The Importance of Self-Esteem." She said that she will continue to focus on her volunteer efforts and improving herself as a competitor and role model until the pageant in January.

Zitka explained that she chose her platform because of her own experiences in high school and college. She is a 2003 graduate of West Springfield High School and a 2007 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a degree in communications.

Zitka said while entering those academic areas she became aware of how young obsession with body image, self-image distortion, susceptibility to peer pressure, drugs and alcohol and unhealthy relationships could be prevented if youth had positive self-esteem.

She explained that she works with young people in order to set life goals in order to improve their self-esteem, which better aids them in their problem solving skills.

"I believe that all of our nation's largest problems could be solved if my generation had healthier self-esteem," Zitka said.

When asked why she is working so diligently to prepare herself for the Miss America Pageant next year, she said, "It's really important for me to win because I believe that I have the power to make a difference."

She said that throughout the competition and during the upcoming months she will continue to remain true to herself as someone who is "comfortable in their own skin."

She said that over the next few months she will be working with Miss Massachusetts board members in order to "prepare accordingly" for the upcoming pageant. Zitka noted that she will also continue to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network and also try to expand awareness of the Miss America organization throughout Massachusetts. She explained that she began competing in pageants only three years ago because of the numerous scholarship opportunities available through the organization.

Zitka noted that in September she will be traveling to Los Angeles to spend the month filming a reality show while living on a ranch with the other Miss America contestants.

She said that her life goals beyond pageantry are to become involved in the entertainment industry or broadcast journalism.

"I have no doubts that this is just one stepping stone for her with a life filled with great opportunities," Pajer said.