Miss Ark Valley will head to Pratt Community College next week to participate in Miss Kansas Week.

Arkansas City native Candace Sweetwood is new to the pageant circuit, but she is looking forward to the activities that will take place during Miss Kansas Week.

“Throughout the week, I will have rehearsal, meals with state sponsors, interviews and preliminaries, then on June 9, the top 10 girls will compete for the dream job of Miss Kansas,” he said.

But what she is looking forward to most is spending time with her fellow titleholders.

“All of us girls have a special bond, and love lifting each other up and giving encouragement, because we are all in this together,” Sweetwood said.

Close Miss friends

One person she will spend time with is a fellow competitor in the Miss Ark Valley pageant, Miss Meadowlark.

“She will be one of my suitemates for Miss Kansas Week,” Sweetwood said.

Another of the competitors at Miss Kansas Week is even closer to her.

“(She) is my childhood best friend, Miss South Central, Hannah Klaassen,” Sweetwood said.

“I am looking forward to the bonding experience with my fellow titleholders, as well as the new skills I will gain from the experience.”

Pageant journey

Sweetwood’s journey began in January, when she competed in a local pageant in Ark City through the Miss Cowley County Organization.

“This was a preliminary to go on to compete in the Miss Kansas pageant,” she said. “Pageants are something new to me this year, but I knew through the Miss Kansas Organization (that) I could learn skills that will help me in the professional world, such as confidence, poise and public speaking.”

She has several friends who have competed in pageants in the past, and Sweetwood said she has seen how it has helped them to grow into “strong, educated women with a service mindset.”

“I wanted to be a part of something that could help me gain those traits, as well as become someone young kids could look up to,” she said.

Sweetwood competed with several girls in areas such as interview, talent, swimwear and evening gown. She played the ukulele and sang during her talent segment.

“At the end of the day, I was crowned Miss Ark Valley and given a scholarship,” she said.

Education path

The current Miss Ark Valley graduated from Arkansas City High School in 2017 as class valedictorian.

“I participated in four musicals, symphonic choir (and) Ark High Singers, and I was a member of the Purple Paws dance team. I was also a part of National Honor Society,” Sweetwood said.

“I am currently attending Kansas State University to study secondary English education. I hope to become a high school English teacher and be a faculty sponsor for school clubs.”

Sweetwood always has had a love for reading and children, she said.

“When I was in high school, my teachers had a huge impact on my life. Andrea Berthot was my junior-year English teacher and she is my main inspiration for my career choice,” Sweetwood said.

“(Berthot) had a way of teaching that helped students learn in a fun and interactive way.”

Faith and family

Sweetwood’s support system is not limited to her family and friends, although her family have been very supportive of her endeavors.

“My family (helps me by) keeping me calm, and helping me remember to trust in God and whatever happens is a part of His plan,” she said.

“Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

“I believe God has a purpose in everything to bring us closer to Him and to serve Him. He is a loving and merciful God. I want to make sure all the glory and honor goes straight to Him. Because without His love and grace, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”