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Miss Coos County

Amanda Merritt performs in the talent round Saturday before going on to win Miss Coos County at Southwestern Oregon Community College's Hale Center.

COOS BAY — A roar of applause and cheers erupted from a packed auditorium Saturday at the Hales Center for the Performing Arts as three young women were crowned in the 2020 Miss Coos County Scholarship Program.  

The nonprofit program, which is an affiliate of the national Miss America Organization, has over its lifetime awarded a number of young women from Coos County with over $250,000 in scholarships as they work to reach their educational goals.   

Courtney Jeffs delivers her comedy routine in the talent round Saturday during the Miss Coos County pageant at Southwestern Oregon Community C…

This year, 20-year-old Amanda Merritt, of North Bend, was crowned the title of Miss Coos County 2020, a moment she said she had been dreaming of for many years.  

“Timing is everything,” said Merritt. “This is my fourth year in the program and I’m amazed at what it’s done for me. I’m completely shocked.”

Merritt, who was also awarded the Interview Award scholarship, said she plans on pursuing a career in psychology and would one day like to open a clinic for kids and young adults struggling with mental health issues.

Also crowned this year was Bethany Rowe, 20, of Coquille as Miss Pacific Shores 2020. While no stranger to competitions, Rowe, a former Miss Teen Rodeo Oregon, said this was the first time she’s ever participated in an event sponsored by the Miss America Organization.

“This was a lot different than what I’m used to,” she said. “I really focused a lot of my interviews and I feel like I got better. I learned a lot.”

Rowe said she also plans on entering the medical field and has considered becoming either a cardiologist or geriatrician. Recently, she applied to the nursing program offered at Southwestern Oregon Community College where she hopes to start later this year.   

For the second year in a row, the Miss Coos County candidates were asked to provide a “Social Impact Statement” which replaced its program’s previous Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimwear category.

Merritt in her social impact statement talked about her commitment to saving animals possibly facing euthanasia due to overcrowded shelter spaces. Rowe used her time to raise awareness and advocate for county’s local Down syndrome community.

North Bend High School student Moira O’Bryan, 16, also took home a crown Saturday night as she was named Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen 2020. The aspiring actress and musical theater performer was also awarded the Little Sister Pay It Forward and the Interview Award scholarship awards.

“This experience has really built up my confidence,” said O’Bryan. “This past year I figured out exactly who I am as a person in a bunch of different ways and this organization has helped me out a lot with that.”

The scholarship program this year handed out about $40,000 in scholarships and tuition waivers as well as named a new Little Sister of Coos County, formerly known as Miss Coos County Outstanding Princess, by random drawing. This year’s business of the year and volunteers of the year were David and Linda Grover of Kozy Kitchen.

Co-executive director Amee Springsteen said she was overjoyed with how well this year’s program turned out. The program she said has always been focused on helping young women boost their self-confidence and equipping them with the skills and tools needed to be lead a successful life, she said.

“I think anytime we can get girls walking away with more confidence, finding a best version of themselves and scholarship money so they can go to school is great,” said Springsteen. “Our end goal is to make these young women better. Our goal is prepare great women for the world and to prepare the world for great women.”

Ashley Strain, 17, of Bandon, was named first runner-up in the “Miss” competition and 13-year-old Karli Kennedy was named runner-up in the “Outstanding Teen” competition. The new titleholders will go on to participate in the Miss Oregon and Miss Oregon Outstanding Teen 2020 scholarship competition July 8-11 at the Seaside Convention Center. 

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Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-2039 or by email at amanda.linares@theworldlink.com.

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