Audience members at the 2014 Miss Kansas Pageant will have a local contestant to cheer on for the first time in many years.

Katie Burkhalter, a 2011 Pratt High School graduate, was crowned Miss Rose Hill 2014 at the local pageant on Nov. 30.

Burkhalter, who currently works at All Insurance and Lisa's Western Wear, is the first Miss Kansas contestant from Pratt in many years.

Burkhalter is no stranger to the pageant system. She also competed in the Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen Pageant in 2010 as Miss Southcentral Teen.

She has had a long running interest in the pageant system and has attended every pageant since 1997. But she didn't dream she would have her turn in the pageant.

"I never thought I'd be on the stage," Burkhalter said.

She had attended all those pageants with her mother who said it would be strange to watch the pageant this year with her on stage and not at her side in the audience.

Although she competed in the Teen pageant, she put her competition together at the last minute and didn't get the full pageant experience.

She did learn that she needs to be prepared and contestants need a lot of confidence. That confidence was hard to come by for Burkhalter.

"I didn't have a whole lot of confidence growing up," Burkhalter said.

But that hasn't stopped her from wanting the experience. She admired the women she saw on stage and wanted to have their confidence and be one those contestants.

Burkhalter has been surprised with the amount of support she has gotten from all over the community. Before the pageant, she knew she had a lot of support from her family and a few select friends including a special young man.

Since her win she has discovered so many people supporting her that it is almost overwhelming, Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter is especially excited to be able to share her platform "Stop the silence on domestic violence."

She chose that platform because of past experiences with domestic violence in her home.

She wants people to know that it's OK to talk about the problem and do something about it because approximately one in four women will experience domestic violence, Burkhalter said.

"You don't have to stay in the situation," Burkhalter said. "I'm able to show what I'm talking about. I know multiple ways to get out."

Burkhalter said she has a strong voice and it was a good platform for her. She wants people to known that it's OK to talk about it and get help.

Besides the serious part of the pageant, Burkhalter is anxious to take part in the parade and get to wave at the people along the route, especially little girls that look up to her as a role model.

Burkhalter will be dancing for her talent although she has not decided what style she will use. She did a belly dancing number at the Rose Hill pageant. She has taken dance lessons for almost 13 years. She was also a cheerleader and that also gave her confidence.

She feels most confidence about evening gown and on-stage question portions of the competition. She said she can think on her toes and has a wide range of interests so the question doesn't threaten her. The questions at Miss Rose Hill were supposed to be about each contestant's platforms but the questions were mixed up but she didn't mind because it gave her the opportunity to show the judges that she could think on her feet.

As for the evening gown, she said she feels like a rock star when she is dressed up.

He least favorite part of the pageant is the swimsuit competition. But she said that she was confident in how she looked and if someone has that confidence it will show through.

While Burkhalter is preparing for the pageant, that takes place during the first full week in June, she will also be going back to Pratt Community College to finish her first year in the nursing program.

She dropped out of the program for personal reasons but is now ready to continue her education.

"Some obstacles came up and interrupted my career path," Burkhalter said.

But now those issues are resolved and Burkhalter is anxious to finish up her first year classes and get on with her goal of getting her LPN then RN. Her long-term goal is to work in obstetrics and gynecology.