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Pageant Winners Stay Close to the Classroom

By Tyler Miller

Kristina Higgins, winner of the 2009 Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant, has given up her standing as Peach State royalty in favor of working with special education students at a middle school outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Higgins, a 24-year-old from Dacula, Georgia, chose not to sign a contract with the pageant the day after her crowning.

“Due to my current job responsibilities as a middle school teacher and the responsibilities and time commitment as Miss Georgia, I have decided to not fulfill the duties of Miss Georgia 2009,” Higgins said in a statement released by the pageant. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have been chosen as Miss Georgia and fully support the system,” she said before wishing her replacement well.

Higgins is a graduate of Georgia College & State University. She ran for Miss Georgia on the platform “Autism Speaks,” promoting autism awareness through parent education, early intervention, and increased funding.

The 2009 Mrs. New Jersey America title, meanwhile, has also been snagged by an educator.

Jennifer Macones, a social studies teacher in Stanhope, New Jersey, was crowned July 18, after having been voted first runner-up in last year’s contest. Macones, a member of the New Jersey Education Association, will remain in the classroom.

Macones’ platform was “Education and Teen Volunteerism”—a cause she has advocated for years by working with her sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. She and her students send care packages to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, prepare “giggle bags” for children with cancer, collect groceries for regional food pantries, and participate in other community service projects.

“History is one of those subjects-either kids love it or they hate it,” Macones tells NEA Today. “I try to make it as creative as possible to keep them involved. When kids enjoy learning and are challenged every day, there’s truly no limit to what they can accomplish.”

The 3o-year-old wife and mother of two will vie for the Mrs. America title in Tucson, Arizona, in September. Regardless of how she fares in the national pageant, she’s excited about serving as Mrs. New Jersey in the coming year.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and so many other wonderful organizations,” says Macones. “I know I’m going to be busy, it’s going to be a crazy year, but it’s an amazing opportunity.”