Girls and young women ages 12 to 24 can apply now to join the race for scholarship money.

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Young women and girls of York County and surrounding counties will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and maybe even win a little bit of scholarship money by applying to participate in the Miss York County pageant.

Applications for 2016 Miss York County Pennsylvania Scholarship program and Outstanding Teen program are being accepted until Jan. 1 with the pageant taking place Jan. 30 at the York County School of Technology. The contestants are judged in talent, interview, evening wear, on-stage question, and lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit.

The pageants are preliminaries to the Miss Pennsylvania and Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen program which will take place in June in Pittsburgh. Winners will then advance to the Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant.

Good experience: Debbie Butcher, former Miss York County and current board member, said the pageant is a great learning experience for those who decide to get involved.

She said it makes the contestants really think about how they feel about issues, as well as help develop confidence.

Butcher said the interview portion of the pageant prepared her for professional interviews after she graduated college. She said she was getting offers for jobs against people who had more experience than herself.

"That's because I knew how to interview," she said.

Marla Peiffer, 2015 Miss York County, agreed that the interview process is valuable. She said while in college she had to propose research in front of a panel of professors and colleagues. While her classmates were nervous, Peiffer was not.

"You don't really know what they're going to ask, but you have to be prepared," she said.

"I felt so prepared," Peiffer said, adding she was used to that kind of thinking.

"There’s so much real life carry-over for pageantry,” she said.

Scholarships: Between the two pageants, three women from each pageant will be awarded different titles: Miss York County, Miss White Rose and Miss Susquehanna Valley and their outstanding teen equivalents. Scholarship money is awarded with each title.

Butcher said between the three awards, they hope to hand out around $10,000 in scholarship money.

Butcher, a five-year participant in the pageant and winner of the 1994 pageant, said the scholarship money was helpful for her to pay off her college education.

“The No. 1 reason for myself, the reason I competed, is because the Miss York County program is a scholarship program,” she said.

“It was an amazing opportunity to have a lot of my debt erased for college,” she added.

Peiffer said last year she received around $4,000 in scholarship money for college.

"That’s the best part, the scholarship money,” she said.

Butcher said the most money is given to Miss York County but the other two also receive some money.

Long-lasting impressions: Peiffer said she has made many great friends since she started doing pageants, and she still stays in contact with those who previously competed but are now too old to compete.

She said contrary to popular belief, all the girls who compete are friendly to each other.

“You can’t help but be happy for whoever wins because they’re all so sweet,” she said, adding that every year she feels like she gains more friends.

Peiffer enjoys pageantry so much that she plans to continue being involved with it even after she ages out at 25.

Eligibility: To be eligible for the “Miss” pageant, young women must be unmarried between 17 and 24, must live, attend school or work in Pennsylvania, and they must be at least high school seniors.

For the teen pageant, girls must be between 12 and 17 and live or go to school in Pennsylvania.

The only entry fee for each contestant is to raise $100 for the Children's Miracle Network.

The applications may be downloaded from www.yorkcountypageants.org and emailed to yorkcountypageants@gmail.com.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com.

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