South Fayette grad pursues mentoring platform through pageants

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Growing up, Ashley Schmider of South Fayette Township loved watching the Miss America Pageant on TV.

She always thought the women competing were strong and intelligent people, never dreaming that she would be viewed as one of them herself before she was even 20.

Following her graduation as valedictorian of the South Fayette High School Class of 2009, that summer she entered a pageant system called National American Miss and won over 180 other girls, being crowned Miss Pennsylvania Teen.

Continuing to gain in self-confidence and good interviewing skills, she then competed in Miss Pennsylvania Teen World (now known as the Miss TEEN Pennsylvania pageant) and won that title as well. This allowed her to compete at the Miss Teen United States Pageant in Houston, where she placed in the top 10.

She took a year off to prepare and decide what pageant to enter next, continuing in the meantime to study at Duquesne University. One of her favorite aspects of Duquesne is how all the students like to get involved and give back to the community.

She became involved with the Duquesne chapter of Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) Mentoring Organization. This pairs college women mentors with third-fifth grade girls from Pittsburgh inner-city schools.

She became the administrative director of her Duquesne chapter, joining female students from the chapters at Carlow University, Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

She also was an intern at Pittsburgh Fayette Express and Federated Investors before graduating summa cum laude from Duquesne in May with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a major in economics and a minor in mathematics.

At Duquesne, she studied abroad in China for a month. She learned about business from key global competitors and experienced some of the country's cultural aspects. She also was a member of the Lambda Sigma Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society, and Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society.

During her last two years of college she pursued the Miss America system, which is the largest provider in the country of scholarships for young women. In this system, one must win a local title in order to compete at the state level, as well as perform in the talent phase of competition. Her first local title was Miss Southwestern in which her talent was a tap performance. She placed first runner-up to Miss Pennsylvania 2012 and won the Academic Award.

This year, she won the title of Miss Laurel Highlands and last month competed in the Miss Pennsylvania pageant, placing first runner-up again. She also won the Academic Award again and, additionally, the Preliminary Lifestyle Award and Fitness (swimsuit) Award.

“The Miss America Organization gives me the opportunity to spread the message of the Strong Women Strong Girls Organization and allows the voices of the girls I mentor in this amazing program to be heard,” said Schmider.

In addition to SWSG being her personal platform, the Miss America Organization works in conjunction with the Children's Miracle Network and throughout her year as Miss Laurel Highlands 2013, Schmider is promoting the CMN. She recently organized a successful two-hour spin fundraiser at Fitness Fanatics in Great Southern Shopping Center, Bridgeville.

“Pageants have made me the person I am today,” said Schmider. “They allow girls and women to grow and learn skills they can use in all areas of life. From pageants I can easily walk into a job interview or step on to a stage to speak.”

She advises girls to stay true to who they are, then they will have no regrets when they leave the stage if competing or in any phase of their lives.

She is working to get her senior economics thesis published in an academic journal and she is looking into graduate school programs as well as pursuing job opportunities. Follow her on this journey at

Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or

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