Amanda Sasek is in it to win it. The state title she earned Saturday night that gives her the right to compete for Miss America this September in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is the fulfillment of a four-year dream.
The Moberly, Missouri, native competed in the Miss Missouri Pageant for three years before moving to Kansas in 2013 to begin work on a master’s degree and PhD in political science at the University of Kansas. When she won the Miss Greater Wichita title in February, she set her sights on the next goal.
Sasek is not one to wish for a dream — she works hard to make it happen.
She described the regimen: extensive vocal training, training in walking and stage presence, working with a personal trainer in a gym nearly every day, eating only healthy foods, mock interviews to hone her skills and “coaching to make sure I present myself in the best way possible.”
The payoff was Saturday night when she was named as Miss Kansas 2014. She hopes for a little time to relax and catch up on sleep — it takes long rehearsal days to put on quality shows for three nights, plus all the pageant-related activities — but she won’t rest for long.
“I want to be 100 percent prepared for the next phase of competition,” she said Sunday morning. “It is a lot of hard work, but I am going to be in it to win it.”
She also has a job to do as Miss Kansas, promoting the organization by securing sponsorships and encouraging young women to enter, and speaking to audiences of all ages about her platform, reaching out to survivors of suicide.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. For every person that commits the act of suicide, there are an estimated six survivors — family and friends who are impacted by the death of someone they loved. Sasek is one of the survivors.
Her father committed suicide when she was 17. Her grandfather took his life when her father was 14. That’s not coincidence — people who have lost someone to suicide are three times more likely than the general population to attempt it themselves, she said.
Her goal is to reach out to people, to make sure they know about resources available to them and are able to talk about issues and challenges in life.
“I use my story to connect with others,” she said.
The details of the story and the intensity of the message change with the audience. She has talked with kindergarten students about feelings. It gets more serious at the fourth, fifth and sixth grade levels. Working as a substitute teacher, she learned that 75 percent of 9- and 10-year-olds know someone who has committed suicide.
“They’re being affected by it, or by depression in the family,” Sasek said.
She’s direct with high school and college-age audiences and also talks about bullying and self-confidence issues that can lead to suicide.
Sasek describes herself as a hard-working person, who is passionate about serving others and who takes life seriously because she has a lot of goals.
“I’m also the first to start having fun,” she said. “I was the girl making everybody laugh (during the pageant). I have a lot of one-liners.”
She graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2013 and selected the University of Kansas for graduate work because it has an “incredible program in political science,” and she was given the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant. She teaches four classes a semester to about 80 students. Her goal is to be a university professor.
For fun — when she has time — she likes exploring new places, finding little coffee shops and stores. “I loved downtown Pratt,” she said.
She enjoys contemporary Christian music, is a “science fiction nerd,” and plays tennis when she can.