Old Town native and current Miss Maine heading to national competition
OLD TOWN, Maine — It has been nearly one year since Old Town native Julia Van Steenberghe was crowned Miss Maine USA. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 22-year-old pageant queen is getting ready to compete on the national stage.
An Old Town High School graduate and former presidential scholar, Van Steenberghe ran track and cheered for the Coyotes, while serving as class president and student council president.
In 2016, her senior year, she helped lead the cheer team to a state championship title.
In between pursuing a graduate degree in school counseling and teaching a seminar at the University of Maine, Van Steenberghe is keeping up with her commitments as Miss Maine, despite the ongoing pandemic.
Preparing for the Miss USA contest normally presents a lot of challenges, which have only become more difficult in a pandemic world, Van Steenberghe said. But instead of being consumed by the troubles, she is trying to focus on the silver linings.
“Because of the virtual world we are living in, I have been able to connect with people from all over the country hosting virtual events,” she said. Some events she has hosted as Miss Maine include an antiracism book club, virtual food drive and voter education programs.
But her main passion and the focal point of her work as Miss Maine, is addressing food insecurity — both in Maine and across the nation. “I have always been passionate about raising awareness about food insecurity as well as volunteering to help end the problem of hunger,” Steenberghe said.
Approximately 13.7 million households in the U.S. were food insecure at some point in 2019, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. For Van Steenberghe, that problem has become more realized during the pandemic.
“One in three children [are] predicted to go hungry in some Maine counties by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19,” she said. “Now truly is the time we must come together as a community to help those in need.”
In addition to her work addressing food insecurity, Van Steenberghe also works with Best Buddies, Camp Sunshine and Special Olympics.
If crowned Miss USA this year, Van Steenberghe said she hopes to continue raising awareness of food insecurity around the country.
Regardless of the turn out, Van Steenberghe is sure that pageantry has already changed her life. “Never did I think growing up in Old Town, Maine, I would one day host virtual events with participants from every corner of the country, or be able to share my passions on such a large platform. Pageantry has instilled the confidence in me to truly be myself and embrace each and every part of who I am,” she said.
The Miss USA Pageant takes place Nov. 9 in Memphis, Tennessee. Van Steenberghe said people can download the free Miss USA app to vote her into the Top 16, if interested.