As the first Miss Savannah Juneteenth, Kennedy Hunter hopes to use her title as an opportunity to “encourage younger girls in the community to be great.”

The 2024 Johnson High School graduate recently was crowned winner of the scholarship pageant sponsored by Chosen for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes cultural arts, STEAM and community service. STEAM is an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

Hunter is the daughter of Stacie Coppock and Darion Hunter, and will be attending Georgia Southern University where she will study nursing. She was one of 10 contestants who underwent six months of training that included history education, etiquette sessions, community service projects, and fundraising efforts. A portion of the funds raised by each girl was donated to local nonprofits chosen by each participant.

First runner-up was Kyra Elizabeth Bradshaw, daughter of Tonja Bradshaw, and a 2024 graduate of Woodville Tompkins High School. She also will be attending GSU in the fall to major in nursing. In a special category, Saiiya King was crowned the first Miss Teen Savannah Juneteenth. King, daughter of Rashida King and Charles Reid, is a student at Johnson High School.

As Miss Juneteenth, Hunter received a $5,000 scholarship from Chosen from the Arts. She recently answered a few questions about her new leadership role:

Kennedy Hunter is the inaugural Miss Savannah Juneteenth.

How did you first hear about the pageant and why did you decide to become involved?

“I heard about the pageant from my mother. When she asked if I wanted to do it, my first answer was no. I’m a very shy person when it comes to performing in front of people and being in a pageant was out of my comfort zone. My mom told me it was for a scholarship, and I should definitely do it. I realized it would be a great opportunity to break out of my shell and just learn new things.”:

Can you elaborate a little more on the training that contestants went through?

“During our six-month journey, my fellow contestants and I immersed ourselves in the rich tapestry of Gullah culture and it history in Savannah. We honed our public speaking skills, learned proper etiquette, and mastered the art of makeup application. These experiences were pivotal, equipping us not only for the competition but also for personal growth and effective representation of our heritage. It was a diverse and enriching preparation that went beyond appearances, fostering deep connections to our community and empowering us to confidently share our stories.”

What fundraising techniques did you use and what non-profit (s) did you donate to and why?

“During our preparation, we utilized a fundraising link to reach out to family, friends, and the community for donations. I chose to support the non-profit organization Future Minds Literacy and [Adult] Education, led by Zelonia Williams, a longtime friend of my mom’s. Zelonia’s dedication to education and her organization’s mission resonated deeply with me. I aimed to contribute to Future Minds’ growth and impact, knowing the funds would support both its educational initiatives and benefit the community in meaningful ways.”

What led you to choose nursing as your college major?

Choosing nursing as my college major has been a lifelong dream for me. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always felt a strong calling to care for others and make a positive impact on people’s lives. Over the years, this passion has only grown stronger as I’ve witnessed the crucial role that nurses play in healthcare and their ability to make a difference every day. Nursing offers me not only the opportunity to fulfill my desire to help others but also to pursue a career where I can continuously learn and grow, while making a meaningful contribution to society. I believe it’s a profession that aligns perfectly with my values and aspirations, and I am eager to embark on this journey to earn my degree in nursing

What did you think when you won?

“I was very shocked and happy at the same time. You couldn’t have told me in the beginning of this pageant that I was going to win because I was very nervous during the actual pageant. I was so honored to win this title and I hope I can use it as an opportunity to encourage younger girls to be great.”

The organization is already looking ahead to the 2025 pageant, with applications opening on November 1, according to Patricia Perry, executive director of Chosen for the Arts.

“The success of this historic event underscores the importance of Juneteenth and highlights the talents and dedication of Savannah’s young women, paving the way for future leaders who are deeply connected to their cultural heritage and committed to community service,” Perry said.

Interested participants can apply via MissSavannahJuneteenth.org