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Communication student crowned Miss North Carolina Collegiate

By Chaz Lilly

Kaitlyn Burns, a senior communication major at Western Carolina University, has been crowned Miss North Carolina Collegiate USA 2024.  

“Because communication, as part of its very nature, is an interdisciplinary field concerned with how we connect and build relationships with others, it requires a high degree of leadership, courage and problem-solving abilities, and Kaitlyn has worked hard to develop these skills during her time at WCU,” said Scott Eldredge, department head of communication. “It is not surprising to me that Kaitlyn would earn this honor; a degree in communication teaches strategy development, message design, audience analysis and media literacy.”

The Miss Collegiate USA Organization held the statewide pageant earlier this month on the campus of NC State University.

kaitlyn burns

Kaitlyn Burns

Burns, of Hendersonville, is an active member of her sorority, Phi Mu Gamma Mu, and the founder of The HOPE Project. HOPE stands for helping others with positive eating.

“It’s my personal initiative to help combat eating disorders in younger generations,” Burns said.

Through The HOPE Project, she gives talks at elementary and middle schools about not only eating disorders but also how to have a good relationship with your body and with food.

“I had an eating disorder from the time I was 12 to 18 years old. I never had a great relationship with food due to bullying and being the overweight kid in class. I wish someone would have taught me how to love your body in a social media driven age,” Burns said. “It’s important that we talk to kids about how to be authentic in who you are and love your body for what it is.”

Burns said her passion for pageants, advocacy and volunteer work started at a young age. She started her journey in the Hendersonville princess program, which gave her the opportunity to follow the Hendersonville queens, high school-aged pageant members, and volunteer with them.

By age 12, she earned her first state crown as Little Miss North Carolina.

“Competing in pageants, you learn not only how to represent a brand, but to be a brand ambassador and be an advocate for your organization,” Burns said. “Through pageants, I’ve been able to take a lot of initiatives that I’m passionate about and promote them across the state and nation.”

With her latest crown, she plans to volunteer at the Salvation Army, United Way and St. Jude’s Children Hospital.

The Miss Collegiate USA Organization helps young women learn more about financial literacy and achieve success in higher education. The national winner wins $5,000 toward college expenses. Burns is hoping to take that crown, too, as she intends to pursue a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“WCU has given me a lot of tools to succeed,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about social media management and how to think about positioning brands and promoting causes. I’m prepared for graduate school and for my next step toward a career in public relations or advertising.”

The national Miss Collegiate USA pageant will be held July 2-6 in Greenville, South Carolina.

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