If Samantha Reinecke was looking for a way to impress her high school students, she found it when she was recognized this spring for her brains and beauty.
Reinecke, an English teacher in her hometown of Chanute, was named Mrs. Kansas during the statewide competition in April. This September, she'll compete in the national Mrs. America pageant in Tucson, Ariz.
A graduate of the College of Education, Reinecke is no stranger to pageantry. At 16, she competed for Miss Teen Kansas, and had friends who successfully competed in state pageants as well.
With her husband in the Air Force, she decided in 2009 to step back into pageantry, using the United Service Organization as her platform. She took second runner-up that year before taking the crown this time. In addition to enjoying her $10,000 worth of prizes, Reinecke is using her win to promote not only the USO and its initiatives but also United Through Reading, a program in which service members are recorded reading books for their children back home.
"I'd like to see more young women get involved in pageantry," Reinecke said. "It can be a huge confidence booster and it gives you a voice for good causes. I do it because I'm passionate about raising awareness for these things."