For Ashlyn Mercier ’23, ’24 M.S. and April Mauceri ’24, ’25 M.S., being involved with the Miss America Organization has offered important learning opportunities and enabled them to make a meaningful impact on their communities. They are now looking forward to competing for the Miss Connecticut and Miss New Hampshire crowns, respectively.
March 30, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications/p>
Ashlyn Mercier ’23, ’24 M.S. has a younger brother who is a two-time pediatric cancer survivor, and she is passionate about bringing positivity and hope to other kids who are battling serious illnesses. Her involvement with the Miss America Organization is giving her a platform to do just that.
Mercier will be competing in the Miss Connecticut Competition in April, something she’s always dreamed of doing. The organization enables her to share many of her passions – including education, national security, and dance – in one space. It also gives her the opportunity to share her social impact initiative, titled “Nick’s Courage: One Smile Goes a Mile,” in honor of her brother.
Since December, she has hosted a virtual fundraiser that has already raised more than $1,500 for a variety of organizations that support children, such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“When Nick was sick, my family would constantly remind me that I was his biggest cheerleader,” said Mercier, a national security major who was recently elected as a senator representing varsity athletes within the University’s Undergraduate Student Government Association. “Competing for Miss Connecticut this April is a message to my younger self that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, and it is the start of turning my dreams into a reality.”
‘This has been so inspiring for me’
Mercier already has been named “Miss Gold Coast,” a title inspired, in part, by her Charger pride. Candidates typically compete in a local competition before moving to state contests, and winners receive local titles. Because those competitions were not held due to the coronavirus global pandemic, all candidates were considered “at-large” and chose their own titles. Mercier chose “Miss Gold Coast,” since gold is one of the University’s colors, as well as one of her high school’s colors.
A member of the University’s Dance Team, Mercier is preparing for the competition alongside her teammate and classmate, April Mauceri ’24, ’25 M.S., who will be competing for the Miss New Hampshire crown in April. Mauceri, a forensic science major, got involved with the Miss America Organizations when she was in high school and one of her math teachers, who also directed a local competition, encouraged her to participate.
Also passionate about education, Mauceri hopes to inspire kids to get involved in STEAM fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. Her social impact initiative, “Great Minds Grow from STEM/STEAM,” will focus on the importance of exposing kids to STEAM subjects at a young age, and she will highlight the gaps between men and women in the STEAM fields.
Mauceri is looking forward to serving as a role model to kids of all ages. She says her involvement with the Miss America Organization has been a remarkable learning experience, and she’s looking forward to using her platform to promote education.
“I have learned how each voice can be heard, as long as you put your mind and heart into it,” she said. “I’ve watched so many young women share their ideas and what they’re passionate about through the platform provided by this organization, and this has been so inspiring for me. Through competing, I have also learned to view each situation as a learning experience, win or lose. I take what I’ve done and look at it with a lens of positivity and growth and ask myself how I can improve based in it.”
‘I’m so grateful for this opportunity’
Mauceri describes her path to the Miss New Hampshire competition as “quite unusual.” She competed for the “Miss Liberty” title nearly two years ago, and, although she did not win, she caught the directors’ attention. Last year’s competition was postponed because of the pandemic, and each of the title holders from 2019 kept their crowns for another year. When the winner had to step down, the directors contacted Mauceri and told her that she was the next eligible competitor to assume the title and compete for the Miss New Hampshire crown.
“I’ve looked up to the local titleholders since I was a little girl, and I saw them at public events,” she said. “I never thought that I could be one of those women in a sash and crown. Going on to compete in for the title of Miss New Hampshire is something I never would have expected, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity and so excited.”
A nonprofit and one of the world’s largest providers of scholarship assistance to young women, the Miss America Organization aims to help young women learn important career and life skills and enable them to make a difference in their communities.
“I was welcomed into the Miss America Organization with open arms and exposed to so many incredible young women looking to make a difference in their communities,” said Mercier. “I am inspired to continue serving the state of Connecticut and furthering the reach of ‘Nick’s Courage: One Smile Goes a Mile.’ Through my involvement with the Miss America Organization, I have also been given the opportunity to develop professional skills such as interviewing, public speaking, and digital communication that will serve me well throughout my career.”