Be yourself, and let the judges do the rest.

That’s the formula Katie Schmit used to be crowned Miss South Dakota Teen USA. Heading into the April 25 Miss South Dakota Teen USA pageant, the Artesian native had yet to compete in a beauty pageant.

But Schmit didn’t let that stand in the way, as the judges and contestants took notice of the small town South Dakota girl’s authenticity, platform and sheer beauty.

“I just really portrayed my true self, and having them see that was just an awesome experience,” Schmit said while she made an appearance at 2nd and Lawler Co. in Mitchell, where she greeted people and posed for group photos. “It feels great being Artesian’s first Miss Teen South Dakota.”

After being crowned Miss South Dakota Teen USA, she earned herself a spot to compete in the national Miss Teen USA pageant in late November at Tulsa, Oklahoma, where each state will have a contestant competing.

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"I'm super excited for the national pageant, and I hope it is just as a great of experience my first one," she said.

At the state and national level pageants, a selected panel of judges score the teen contestants between ages 14-19 based on three segments, which includes evening gown, activewear and an interview. To compete in the state pageants, contestants must submit photos and complete an application that is then reviewed by a selection committee.

The Miss Teen USA pageant -- which takes place in conjunction with the Miss USA pageant -- has been in existence since 1983 under several different ownership groups. Miss USA and Miss America pageants, which are separate competitions under different ownership, are two of the most well-known, publicized beauty pageants in the nation.

Schmit’s platform aims to raise awareness of domestic violence, along with developing ways to combat it. As a nursing student at SDSU, Schmit’s platform is also integrated with healthy living and supporting charities like the Children’s Miracle Network.

“I just really want to help kids around our state through charities like Children’s Miracle Network. I want to spread that awareness throughout the state,” Schmit said.

When Schmit was in high school, she developed an initiative program called “Stopping Violence Against Women,” which showed women ways they can protect themselves from domestic abuse and violence. Part of Schmit’s inspiration behind the initiative is the high prevalence of domestic violence against women that some studies have indicated increased during the pandemic.

Having the opportunity to spread her mission during the pageants has been a moving experience for Schmit. While studying as a full-time college student at South Dakota State University, the 18-year-old nursing major continues to stay active in her mission to raise awareness of domestic violence.

“I went to three different schools and had local law enforcement and self defense instructors show ways to defend yourself from domestic violence. I hope to get more schools involved with that initiative,” she said.

For Brenda Schmit, watching her daughter compete has provided another opportunity to see how much her daughter has grown.

“It was amazing to see her go up there and show her true self. And the Miss Congeniality award as a mom was absolutely the best award to see her get,” Brenda Schmit said of her daughter.