The journey to the Miss America pageant began this past weekend for Neetu Chandak ’18, who was crowned Miss Seneca Falls 2016.
Chandak will compete for the state crown at the Miss New York Pageant this coming May and hopes to eventually win a national title.
Chandak said her interest in the competition was sparked while she was searching for scholarship opportunities during her junior year of high school. “I was looking for scholarship opportunities as a junior and I contacted one of my friends and she suggested that I look into the Miss America’s outstanding teen program — which is the little sister organization to Miss America.”
Chandak competed for — and won — the title of Miss Upstate New York’s Outstanding Teen in 2013. “That’s when I decided I wanted to come back stronger, and with more focus toward mentorship and education toward younger kids,” Chandak said.
Since then, Chandak has competed in four other pageants, and worked to expand her service platform, Mentors EmpowerMe. Chandak said her interest in mentorship began when she placed in the top eight at the national spelling bee two years in a row and started thinking about how she could share this experience with younger students.
“There is so much I gained from that experience and I had acquired so much knowledge that I wanted to give it back, so I started a spelling club in my local school district in Seneca Falls,” Chandak said. “I had the opportunity to teach 107 kids and expose them to my experience. Just watching them learn so much and even apply those skills outside the spelling club. It empowered me, it made me feel like I was making a difference.”
In preparing for Miss New York, Chandak explained that she constantly worked on improving her verbal communication. “I think it’s trying to make a difference in the community — being more present, being more involved,” she said.
Chandak emphasized that the chance to make a difference in the community is one of the highlights of the title.
“People listen to you when you have the crown and the title, and so I want to gain more experience I want to talk to more people and get to know Ithaca and Seneca Falls even better,” she said.
For now, Chandak plans to try to make an appearance every week at local schools, colleges and events.
At Cornell however, Chandak lives largely without pageantry. She serves as an R.A. in Just About Music and is a member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.