It’s time to shine: current student Lily Jeswald ’22 and Dean alum Jackie O’Keefe ’18 are taking part in the Miss Massachusetts competition this weekend. Miss Massachusetts, part of the Miss America Organization, is a nonprofit scholarship program that provides personal and professional opportunities for young women, as well as the platform to advocate for an issue or cause through their social impact initiative.
Lily, a double major in Theatre and English, is competing as Miss Commonwealth, while Jackie, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Entertainment Management, is competing as Miss Lakeville. We caught up with Lily and Jackie as they prepare for Miss Massachusetts to learn more about their pageant experiences, their social impact initiatives and how their time at Dean has impacted both.
What is your campus involvement?
Lily: I've been involved in the main stage productions in the Theatre department since I've been a freshman! My favorite show was "Wonderful Town" where I played Ruth Sherwood. I also am the president of the Musical Theatre Troupe. I'm on the leadership team with the student ambassadors in the Admissions department and was just elected the VP of the student body with Student Government.
Jackie: I was involved with a little bit of everything while at Dean. I was a community advisor in Horne Hall and head community advisor in Ewen Hall, a student ambassador, race manager for the Dean Dash 5k, president of Dean's Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Chair of Marketing for the Student Activities Committee, and I interned in any office I possibly could!
What is your favorite part about Dean?
Lily: I love the small community at Dean. You always know someone walking by you on the way to class!
Jackie: The connections I made with the staff. There were countless members of the Dean College community that to this day still check in on me and support my endeavors. It was at Dean where I decided that I wanted to go into higher education and went on to gain my master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration. As soon as I graduated, several staff members reached out to me to make sure I had full support in my search for a job!
How has Dean impacted your pageant experience?
Lily: Dean helped me grow in so many ways. Beyond educationally or artistically, college is your time to develop and become authentically you. I can thank my experience at Dean for being a part of who I am today.
Jackie: As a first-year student, I was shy and didn't really have many aspirations. Through all of the leadership opportunities I had, and the coursework in the Arts and Entertainment Management program, I felt more than prepared to compete in the Miss America Organization. I used every experience I had and applied it to my interview. I also connected with so many incredible dancers that helped me craft my talent and technique.
What is your social impact initiative?
Lily: My social impact initiative is entitled "Type 1 Diabetes and Me: Generation Z." I was diagnosed with T1D at the age of four. Today I wear both an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor. Through multiple events, my reach on social media and my experience through the Miss America Organization, I am able not only to raise awareness to find a cure, but to also be a representative of people who were diagnosed with a chronic illness and were once told they would never lead a normal life.
Jackie: My social impact initiative is “Fresh Check Day: Strengthening Mental Health in College Students.” This is actually a program that I discovered while at Dean College! Early on in my senior year, the Student Activities office partnered with the Jordan Porco Foundation to put on Dean's first Fresh Check Day. I volunteered that day and immediately saw the impact this program had on college students and their mental health. Through my journey in higher education, I want to continue to promote Fresh Check Day, and bring it to every college or university I work at. I started the first Fresh Check Day at Becker College, and I now co-chair the Fresh Check Day committee at Springfield College.
Why did you decide to compete in Miss Massachusetts?
Lily: My first voice teacher, Valerie Stanwood, was Miss Massachusetts in 2007. Since then, I knew it was a dream of mine to compete on the Miss Massachusetts stage and be just like her!
Jackie: I continue to compete every year because of the connections I've made, the interview skills I've crafted, the scholarship money I've earned, and the opportunity to volunteer in communities across the Commonwealth.
What is your favorite thing about competing in pageantry?
Lily: My favorite thing is the connections. I've made so many new friends through this organization. Fun fact: Jackie was my tour guide for my first visit at Dean! Full circle.
Jackie: The community behind the Miss America Organization. There are countless volunteers that truly care about the success of each woman, and they are the backbone of this organization. This is my final year competing for the title of Miss Massachusetts, and I am beyond excited to continue my journey as a volunteer once my time is up.
Good luck this weekend, Lily and Jackie! Learn more about student activities and involvement, both on campus and beyond.