Meet the 2024 Miss Dowagiac Contestants – Contestants 1-3

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The 2024 Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant will be hosted at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center.  Advance ticket sales have ended. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door the night of the Pageant. Tickets are priced at $15 each, and must be paid by cash or check. 

Six contestants will be vying for College of Choice Scholarships on pageant night. Each will be judged based on personal interviews, and pageant night presentation skills including platform speeches. The pageant production will also feature a performance by dancers from Miss Michele & Co.

Leader Publications will be featuring the six contestants over the course of the next two days.

Introducing the first three 2024 Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant Contestants:

Jayden Vandenburg

Contestant Number: 1
Age: 17
Parent/Guardians: Samantha and Kevin Vandenburg
Brothers/Sisters: Alexandria, age 15, Kaleb, age 8, Addisyn, age 6
School attending: Dowagiac Union High School
Grade: 12
School activities: Student Senate, National Tech Honors Society
Outside Activities: Softball
Interests and Hobbies: Reading, cooking, baking
Awards and honors: High honors
Three words to describe you: Confident, funny, sociable

What are your ambitions and plans after graduation?
My ambitions and plans after graduation are going to Kalamazoo Valley Community College to become a Dental Hygienist.

What is your greatest accomplishment(s)?
One of my greatest accomplishments was finding my career choice and pursuing it. Choosing to participate in the Miss Dowagiac Pageant is a step out of my comfort zone, so this has also been a huge achievement for me.

Why did you decide to compete for the title of Miss Dowagiac?
I decided to compete for the title of Miss Dowagiac because it is one of the biggest opportunities so I wanted to take advantage of this experience. This past year, I went out for homecoming queen and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. The support I received from my peers, community and family meant a lot to me. I also enjoyed being involved with the activities of the Homecoming court. That experience encouraged me to want to go out for Miss Dowagiac.

Morgan Gaideski

Contestant Number: 2
Age: 18
Parents/Guardians: Melinda Gaideski, Kenneth Gaideski
Brothers/Sisters: Mekenna Gaideski, and Maya Gaideski,
School Attending: Dowagiac Union High School
Grade: 12
School Activities: Student Senate
Outside Activities: Being around friends and family
Interests and Hobbies: Photography, doing nails, reading a good Colleen Hoover book
Awards and Honors: First lieutenant at Van Buren Tech class
Three words to Describe me: Outgoing, Confident, Rowdy

What are my ambitions and plans after graduation?
My ambitions and plans after graduation are to continue down the route of the medical field. I plan to attend SMC and become a trauma nurse.

What is your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is taking the National test and becoming a certified Emergency Medical Responder.

Why did you decide to compete for the title of Miss Dowagiac?
I decided to compete for the title of Miss Dowagiac for the experience of learning and to help my community thrive. I had multiple people in my life who went out for Miss Dowagiac which really encouraged me to participate this year. I also grew up attending the pageants and seeing the girls in the pretty dresses planted a desire within me to go out someday.

Jamie Howard

Contestant Number: 3
Age: 17
Parents: Kimberly Howard and Charles McCarthy
Brothers and Sisters: Katie Howard, Ethan McCarthy, Paige Howard, Dominic Gant
School attending: Dowagiac Union High School
Grade: 12
School activities: 4 Year member on the Dowagiac Varsity Cheer team, 1st year National Honor Society, Student Senate, Chieftain Heart
Outside activities: 4-H, helping out with Rocket Cheer
Interest and Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, singing, sewing, cake decorating, and playing with my show goats
Awards and Honors: Principal Award, President’s Award for Academic Excellence, County Medal Award for Cake Decorating through 4-H, many Varsity Letters from cheerleading, and Tennis

What are your ambitions and plans after graduation? 

I plan to go to SMC for a year to finish my Career academy program. After that I plan to go to a four-year university to begin studying for my Physician’s Assistant degree. I want to major in Children’s Oncology.

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

Beating cancer at a young age, and not letting it impact my life negatively.
Three words that describe you: 

Cheerful, ambitious, and optimistic

Why did you decide to run for Miss Dowagiac 2024?

I decided to run for Miss Dowagiac because it has always been a dream of mine. When I was younger I told my mom “I want to be a princess” and she told me there was a way I could be one. This is when she told me all about the Miss Dowagiac program and that year she took me to my first pageant. I fell in love with the pretty dresses and the smiles the ladies had on their faces. Immediately I told my mom “I’m going to be a princess just like them.” A couple months later I was diagnosed with cancer and my hair had fallen out. I can remember going to an event downtown with my mom when my hair was growing back and I was very insecure. I went to see the princesses immediately, and they were so kind and loving. They didn’t treat me any differently. Now that I have gotten older it is for more than just the pretty dresses, it’s for being an active role model in the community. The ladies of the Miss Dowagiac court are some of the best and brightest people. I strive to be just like the amazing ladies who didn’t treat me any differently.