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Student Column: Miss Philadelphia

April 18, 2012

Lauren Bilski, Dance student, wrote this article about her experience winning the Miss Philadelphia Pageant. If you would like to have a story included in the newsletter, please email Lisa at

Three years ago I came to Drexel with a dream: to graduate with an undergraduate degree in Dance and to gain admittance into the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Little did I know, however, that Drexel would inspire me to dream bigger and empower me to make every dream a reality. On Saturday March 31st, I was crowned Miss Philadelphia 2012 and awarded a $10,000 scholarship with the promise that during my yearlong reign, I will make the community more comfortable, more accessible, and more enjoyable for children, soldiers, veterans, and any individual living with traumatic brain injury or illness.

The most heavily weighted phase of competition in the Miss America Organization is talent. Being a part of the Westphal Dance Program for three years now, I have grown exponentially as a dancer. We are given opportunities to perform through the formal and fully produced concerts at the Mandell Theatre, in public schools throughout the city, and even on sidewalks and sculptures around campus. I have learned to perform for any audience, in any circumstance. Perhaps the greatest opportunity, that taught me more than anything, was the chance to perform on an international stage when Drexel Dance Ensemble took me to Singapore. The people we met, the culture we experienced, and the dance we shared all inspired me to refine my talent. When it came time to perform my jazz dance at the pageant, I had these experiences with me and I have never felt more comfortable in my art.

The second most heavily weighted phase of competition is the ten-minute interview with the judges behind closed doors. They can ask questions about anything but usually focus on your platform issue. The outreach opportunities in this program have inspired me to pursue my platform and shaped my ability to articulate why it is so important. Two years ago I attended Camp Cranium for the first time, an overnight summer camp for children with brain injury. They asked me to teach the dance classes at camp and during the first year I encountered some difficulties. How could I make a class fun while accommodating such a wide range of physical disabilities? I was determined to do better the following year. Thanks to the help and support of the dedicated and passionate Drexel dance faculty, I did better the second time. Aside from sharing their own experiences with me, they encouraged me to participate in the collaboration with the HMS school for children with cerebral palsy. Every Drexel dancer gets an HMS dance partner that they spend the year with and I have been with mine for two years now. His utter joy exudes at the mere sound of the music. Seeing how one hour a week makes him so happy confirms for me how worthwhile this is. I believe that sharing with the judges how effective this platform has already been, revealed to them how expansive and how incredibly impacting it will become.

From an international stage to inspiring smiles right here in Philly, Drexel is more than just a university. It is a community, a support system, an opportunity, and a home. I am proud to be the first ever Miss Philadelphia that can call herself a dragon.