Miss UAFS Emily McCollom knows a difficult test awaits her when she competes in the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant in June, but she possesses one thing that makes her ready to face the challenge head-on: confidence.

"I believe my biggest strength is that I am comfortable and confident in who I am as a person," McCollom said. "I am excited to go down and show them my hopes and dreams, not only for myself, but the Miss Arkansas organization."

McCollom, who graduated from Greenwood High School, is one of more than 40 contestants participating in the Miss Arkansas pageant, where she will represent the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith after winning the Miss UAFS Scholarship Pageant in March.

Miss Arkansas will take place June 15-21 in Hot Springs. If McCollom is crowned Miss Arkansas, she will continue on to the Miss America Scholarship Pageant.

A portion of her time preparing for the statewide pageant has overlapped with her finals at UAFS, ensuring McCollom has little free time while training for the competition.

"Every week I have been working on interview preparation, traveling a lot for appearances, and working on my talent at least twice a week," she said. "I think the biggest challenge so far has been balancing school along with all my tasks to get prepared. I am a biology major with a very heavy course load, so it can be tedious at times to try and get it all done."

Sherry Card of Fort Smith, a co-chair and business manager of the UAFS Pageant Committee, said McCollom has done an incredible job preparing for the pageant.

"Having competed at the state level last year, she knows how many strong contenders she will be up against, so she has really stepped up her game. She is working out twice a day, has been working with a voice instructor, and is participating in mock interviews," Card said.

"What makes her efforts even more impressive is that she is doing all of this after winning all of those areas of competition at Miss UAFS," Card added. "While some girls would think they have it in the bag, Emily is trying to do even better than her best."

While McCollom is also optimistic about her chances, she considers it an honor simply to compete in the pageant.

"Words cannot do it justice to how honored and humbled I am to be representing my university," she said. "I love my school, and I believe that we have so much to offer, not only to students and faculty, but to our community. I feel so blessed to have a small part in that."