Laakso in the running for Miss Montana

Thursday, June 7, 2018
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Park City’s Rayna Laakso is one of 10 contestants in this year’s Miss Montana Scholarship Program, according to a recent press release.

Laakso, a 19-year-old student at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, is currently working toward a biology major and art minor. Her goal is to attend medical school.

At the Miss Montana competition next week in Glendive, Laakso will perform a gymnastics dance to the song “River,” by Bishop Briggs. Laakso competed in gymnastics for many years when she was younger, and she explained that the song represents strength and the ability to stand up for yourself and things that are important to you.

In addition to the talent portion of the pageant, Laakso will also compete in evening gown, fitness, and interview events.

If crowned Miss Montana, Laakso’s platform for school tours will be “Strength in Understanding,” to address the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“We need to be aware of stigma, point it out and put an end to the false beliefs that have been taught to us,” Laakso explained, mentioning a study that found mental illnesses were negatively portrayed in many Disney films young children watch.

Lack of treatment can have many negative consequences for students, and Laakso believes that students can increase their mental health literacy by learning about symptoms and stigmas. Such mental health literacy is important, and Laakso says “by reducing the stigma, students will be more successful, happy, supported, and educated.”

The Miss Montana pageant takes place in Glendive June 14-16 alongside the Miss Montana’s Outstanding Teen competition. The public is welcome to attend any day of competition.

People can vote online at for their favorite contestant. The winner of this “Montana’s Choice” contest will automatically advance to the Saturday portion of the competition as a finalist, as well as receive additional scholarship money.

The winner of the Miss Montana program receives a $5,000 scholarship, as well as the opportunity to represent the state in Atlantic City at the Miss America pageant this September.

There is over $300,000 available in scholarships and prizes, and each contestant receives at least $850 in scholarship money.

On its website, the Miss America Organization emphasizes its role in promoting women’s education through scholarships. It also notes that contestants contribute thousands of community service hours each year.

It explains: “Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams by providing quality scholarship assistance and honoring their commitment to helping others.”