(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The buzz of excitement filled the air at Jackson Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 24, as students and faculty came together to give a special welcome to Miss America 2024, Madison Marsh.
This isn’t the first time Marsh visited these Jackson Jaguars. She has walked the halls before and engaged with students about her time at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and her path to becoming Miss Colorado.
“I mean, the last time I was here was almost over 20 days ago,” Marsh said. “So I’m just so lucky that my first time back I get to come talk to a wonderful school that I’ve been with the past couple of years.”
Several students in the classrooms remembered her story and even asked where astronaut Barbie was which Marsh frequently brought on visits.
“I was really surprised that everyone had to remember it,” Marsh said. “So every time I came to the school, I would come wearing my military uniform because I’d be in between classes and when I brought this blond astronaut Barbie with me and would kind of talk about the differences of what it looks like to serve in uniform and kind of the different dreams that you have.”
While she did not have Barbie with her on this visit, she did have new accessories—a sash and crown displaying her newest title of Miss America 2024.
“But the fact that they remember just really makes my heart very happy, because that means that I can have an impact on our younger generation and not only asking them, you know, what they want to be when they grow up,” said Marsh.
Upon arrival, Marsh sat down in a couple of classrooms to engage with students and share the news of her new title. As all eyes turned towards Marsh, students eagerly engaged the new Miss America, seizing the opportunity to ask her questions.
“I hope all the young women can now see that Miss America is an achievable goal for them or whatever goals that they have set,” Marsh said. “It is achievable and I hope that I can stand true to that for them.”
This visit is even more memorable because Marsh shares a special connection with one of the teachers, Monica Slabach, a previous Miss America competitor who served as Marsh’s mentor and supported her dreams of competing.
“For the past several years, she has grown so much,” Slabach said. “As a cadet, of course, she came in and was able to take command of a room. But over the years, I’ve seen her grow and just her ability to crouch down with those kids, to look them in the eye and that warmth that surrounds her.”
The friendship formed thanks to the power of social media, after Marsh messaged Slabach about her journey to becoming Miss Colorado.
“Monica was actually one of my very first pageant coaches when I had started,” Marsh said. “I had no clue anything about like the pageant world, really and so I believe I was about a year and a half or two years into pageantry, and I had come across her Instagram, had seen that she made top seven at Miss America and that she was just still killing life.”
Upon walking into the gymnasium, a big smile was exchanged between Marsh and Slabach, speaking volumes to this special opportunity for the entire school to engage with her.
“Now to see her as Miss America, it’s the same woman but now she has this sparkly hat and she’s going to make such a difference in the lives of kids, not just at our school, but all over America now,” said Slabach.
Some of the students were especially lucky, as Miss America selected a handful to answer their questions and share details about challenging times she has faced.
“Whenever I came to the Air Force Academy, I’d only lost my mom about nine months prior,” Marsh said. “So not only was I moving to a new state away from my family, but I was also walking into a very harsh, strict military environment and without my friends at the Academy or mentors all throughout the military, I never ever would have made it through.”
A glimmer of purple could be spotted on Marsh’s sash, which is a tribute to her mother and part of her message of spreading awareness for pancreatic cancer. As Miss America she can continue sharing her mother’s story and advocate for the Whitney Marsh Foundation.
“I really want to ensure that I’m educating people on the signs of pancreatic cancer, ensuring that people know that you know your body best, and that if someone is telling you that nothing is wrong to go get a second opinion if you can,” Marsh said. “Because there are so many lessons that we learned from losing my mom, that I want to ensure that every family across the nation knows to advocate for themselves because it could be the difference in life or death.”
While she has a new title and of course the accessories to go with it, Marsh’s unwavering dedication to our country stands as a testament to her commitment to inspire everyone to reach for the stars.
“I hope that all the young kids that listen to this message know that they can do that, in their own special spin, because I know not everyone’s going to want to join the Miss America opportunity,” Marsh said. “That not everyone is going to want to join the military, but I hope through my story they can see that they can do anything and really they’re the only person that can hold themselves back at the end of the day.”