(left to right) Top 5 – Madalyn Lunceford, a sophomore from Northport Alabama; People’s Choice Award – Isabella Stancil, a freshman from Hayden, Alabama; First runner-up – Mary Clanton Webb, a junior from Marion, Alabama; Miss Paragon 2024 – Amaya Carswell, a sophomore from Thomasville, Alabama; Second runner-up – Mary Clanton Webb, a junior from Marion, Alabama and Top 5 – Elyse Dean, a freshman from Reform, Alabama. (photo by Madelyn Taylor)

Story: Lisa Sollie

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,’ is a phrase that epitomizes Amaya Carswell, a sophomore nursing major at the University of West Alabama and Miss Paragon 2024.

First runner-up in the 2023 Miss Paragon Pageant, Carswell didn’t even have a dress when she made a last-minute decision to enter this year’s annual charity event. The event is sponsored by the university’s chapter of the Blue Key Honor Society, a national group that recognizes students for leadership in extracurricular and academic affairs. According to Leslie White, coordinator of student involvement and communications at UWA, all money raised at the event supports the UWA Student Emergency Fund.

When Carswell was a sophomore at Thomasville High School in Thomasville, Alabama, one of her teachers encouraged her to enter the school’s pageant. Although reluctant at first, she agreed, and placed second runner-up. The following year Carswell entered the pageant again and was named first runner-up. Her senior year she earned the coveted crown and title.

“I never liked dressing up so I wasn’t interested in pageants until that first one,” she noted, “but participating in them has really helped my self-esteem and confidence.”

Carswell has made the dean’s list at UWA and been awarded Student of the Month for the FLi Society, an on-campus organization for first-generation low-income students., and was sponsored by Student Support Services.

Miss Paragon 2024, Amaya Carswell, a sophomore nursing major from Thomasville, Alabama is crowned by Emily Foxhall, Miss Paragon 2023.

Mary Clanton Webb, a junior from Marion, Alabama, was named the pageant’s first runner-up. Majoring in Sport Management, Webb is a sister of the Kappa Xi chapter of Phi Mu where she serves as the membership director and craft committee chairwoman. She also works in the Tiger Room to provide hospitality during various athletic seasons and has made the dean’s and president’s lists during her time at UWA. Webb was sponsored by Student Involvement and Communications.

Gracie Huver, a freshman from Northport, Alabama, majoring in marine biology was named second runner-up. Huver is a an FCA Ambassador and a member of the UWA Volleyball team, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, the BOSS Program and a sister of the Kappa Xi Chapter of Phi Mu. During her time at UWA, Huver has made the president’s list and the Gulf South Conference Honor Roll. She was sponsored by PSG Events, Northport, Alabama.

Isabella Stancil, a freshman from Hayden, Alabama, received the pageant’s People’s Choice Award. This award is presented to the contestant with the most donations in her name to the UWA Student Emergency Fund at the end of the night’s event. An elementary education major, Stancil is a sister of the Gamma Gamma chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau and a member of Delight Ministries. She was sponsored by Alpha Sigma Tau.

Elyse Dean, a freshman from Reform, Alabama, majoring in mathematics was a top five participant. A member of the UWA Cheerleading competition team and a majorette for the UWA Bands program, Dean is a student ambassador and a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society.  She is also a sister of the Gamma Gamma chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau where she serves as vice president of finance. During her time at UWA, she has earned the Yellow Rose award and Highest GPA award from Alpha Sigma Tau. Dean was sponsored by UWA Bands.

Madalyn Lunceford, a sophomore from Northport Alabama, majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology, was also a top five participant.  Lunceford is a member of the dance line for the UWA Bands program and works in the UWA Student Support Services as a student worker and was sponsored by UWA Student Support and Parent Programs.

The 2024 Miss Paragon Pageant raised $1370 for the UWA Student Emergency Fund, a slight increase from last year. The fund provides financial assistance to eligible students with needs such as, but not limited to, medical expenses, housing and transportation and food insecurity. Students’ needs are vetted by a review committee at the university. 

Now with five pageants under her belt, Carswell encourages other students who are thinking about entering a pageant “to just do it. Go out there and have fun and remain humble and don’t be afraid to try again. I certainly wasn’t expecting to win, but you never know what will happen one year to the next.”

As the 2024 winner, Carswell will be featured in the homecoming parade float this fall and will crown next year’s Miss Paragon Pageant winner.