The 58th annual Miss USA pagent airs live tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC. All 50 states and the District of Columbia will be represented.
For Jessica Nolin, the Miss Alaska title-holder who grew up in Palmer, the competition provides a way for her to pursue her academic goals.
"There is so much pressure in the media in and in general - people try to emphasize the looks and that's not what its all about," Nolin said. "I encourage girls to give the program a chance even if they don't think they're pagent matrieral because you don't know all there is to it until you get involved."
Nolin, 22, has been involved with pageants since she was 13 and said her motivating factor in the Miss Alaska contest was the four-year tuition waver. She has placed a rigourous academic schedule before her, seeking a double major in political science and engineering, with a minor in aviation.
Her eventual goal is a lofty one.
"I want to fly for NASA," she said.
After receving her double degree, she plans to apply for the officers training program, probably in the air force, and get a masters in aeronautic engineering. Then she will be in a position to apply the NASA candidiacy program
Nolin said she is excited to participate in the competition and is grateful for the opportunities that have been aviailable to her.
"If I win I will be ecstatic and if I don't I will continue with my education and my flying career," she said. "Either way its an awesome opportunity to go and compete."