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Local woman is Miss New York finalist

Aterahme Lawrence, who not so long ago was an outstanding volleyball player for Shelter Island High School, has finished college and aims to bring more glory to the town she loves as a finalist in the Miss New York pageant.

“I always loved dressing up and was always told I was beautiful,” said the stately 22-year old who graduated in May from Fredonia State University with a bachelor’s degree in acting.

She had long envisioned someday entering a pageant and realized coming back to the Island that someday needed to be now. She has thoughts about her future with or without a pageant crown to add to her resume, but wanted to come home to get centered before taking her next steps.

She hopes to move to California to pursue an acting career, having been bitten by the performance bug appearing in a number of dramas and musicals. She’s also in the process of creating a blog she hopes will gain traction with young women, sharing her own experiences and advice about overcoming obstacles in pursuing dreams.

There have been obstacles along Ms. Lawrence’s path, largely resulting from money woes her family encountered. She was homeless for a period, but determined then not to allow financial considerations dictate her future.

“Once I set my mind to it, I just have to go for it,” she said. Noting that she was the first of her siblings to go to college, she hopes she’s set an example.

Now she’s focusing on finding sponsors to help her pursue the Miss New York title, which she will be competing for at the SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center in White Plains in January. A win there would take her to the Miss USA pageant in May 2020 and, she hopes, a Miss USA crown that would take her to the Miss Universe Pageant.

It’s not just a beauty pageant, Ms. Lawrence said, but an opportunity to share her values and enjoy the congeniality of being with the other young women — something she admits she misses since she left college this spring.

While there’s no talent competition at the Miss New York level, if she won, she would write a song to sing in the Miss USA competition.

Ms. Lawrence learned early that no one achieves goals without help along the way. In addition to her mother’s encouragement, she credits Linda and James Eklund, for whom she worked at the Chequit and the Ram’s Head Inn, with providing much of the funding she needed to play in an international volleyball competition in Australia in the summer of 2014, the year she graduated from Shelter Island High School. She also praised Cindy Belt, her volleyball coach on the Island, for encouraging and guiding her.

In college she made the Dean’s List multiple times. She went from being captain of her high school volleyball and basketball teams and serving as a cheerleader, to holding positions in the Panhellenic Council at college.

She was also engaged in community service, and helped raise money for various causes, including Relay for Life, the Lupus Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and other illnesses.

She received the Mac Nelson Scholarship Award for her interests in drama and poetry after being nominated by her former Fredonia professor, Sarah Green, who remains a mentor.

Having had a taste of international travel, Ms. Lawrence hopes her future will hold more explorations “to enlighten myself and make me a better, more cultured and compassionate person.”

A letter from the state directors of the pageant points out the expenses to cover fees, wardrobe and travel are $1,495, money the contestants seek from sponsors.

Ms. Lawrence is reaching out to locals on the Island to help her reach her fundraising goal. Checks made out to Miss New York USA can be submitted to Ms. Lawrence, who can be reached at (631) 603 1963, or at [email protected]. Sponsors can also contribute online at missnewyorkusa.com.