Denatia Palmer's life has not been sheltered from pain and violence.
The 25-year-old lost her father as a result of inner-city violence in 2007 and lost three other relatives shortly after his death.
But she has chosen to turn the tragedy into her civic platform as Miss Black Pennsylvania 2012.
Palmer, a 2004 William Penn High School graduate, was chosen in late April to serve as Miss Black Pennsylvania for one year. She will vie for the title of Miss Black USA in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 13.
"I grew up in the inner city, and I want young people to realize that things happen in life that we have to find a way to get over," Palmer said. "I want to show the youth that being a product of your environment isn't always a bad thing; it can be a beautiful thing.
"I've experienced death due to violence, and I am still standing strong. I come from where they come from, and I want them to know that life is what you make it and anything you want, you can retrieve it," said Palmer. "I take pride in being from York City, because it's the reason I am who I have become."
Working with youth is her passion, and Palmer said it allows her to share her dreams, hoping in turn to inspire those children to find their own aspirations.
Background: After graduating from Lincoln University in 2008, Palmer worked at William Penn as a teacher's aide and then at New Hope Academy teaching eighth-grade English.
She is currently employed by the Chester County Intermediate Unit Educational Service Center in Downingtown and plans to enroll at West Chester University this summer to pursue her master's degree in speech pathology.
But in the meantime, she is concentrating on fundraising and preparing for Miss Black USA in August.
Palmer volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and is a member of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, where she is
part of the praise stepping team, Gospel Steppers. She is the daughter of Lester and Portia Palmer Bryant of York City and the late Donnell Eugene Woods.
The Miss Black USA Pageant and Scholarship Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit corporation that aims to provide educational opportunities to outstanding young women.
The competition began in 1987, and each year contestants vie to represent their state at the national level to win more than $20,000 in prizes and a $5,000 academic scholarship.
Palmer was one of 117 applicants from Pennsylvania for this year's competition. The field was narrowed down to a top 10, who were selected for a phone interview by a panel of judges.
She was chosen based on an application, background check, community service, talent and the results of the phone interview.
"I am so excited to represent Pennsylvania," said Palmer. "Pennsylvania is a really big state, and I am going to do my best to show others the beauty in York."
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at firstname.lastname@example.org.