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There she is, Lauren Kuhn, at Miss America

Other spectators of the Miss America pageant on Sunday night will see Lauren Kuhn simply as Miss Massachusetts. Those watching from Grays Harbor will see someone they’ve watched grow up – a veteran winner of local pageants – finally on the national stage.

The Miss America beauty pageant bills itself as the largest provider of scholarships for women in the world, which is a large reason Kuhn competes. Graduate school in dentistry at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., is not cheap, as her mother Dawn Kuhn notes. The scholarship for first place is $50,000, which would go a long way toward the $100,000 next year’s tuition will cost.

Kuhn is already guaranteed a smaller scholarship as a Science Technology Engineering and Math finalist. Kuhn also could win as she goes up the pageant ladder into the smaller pool of contestants.

Many in her extended family, as well as pageant supporters and friends, are heading to Atlantic City, N.J., to lend support. Among them will be her younger sister, Paige, who has competed against her sister.

It was Lauren who first brought the family into the pageant world. As a 15-year-old sophomore at Aberdeen High School, she decided to compete in the Miss Grays Harbor Outstanding Teen pageant in 2007. She placed second. The next year she won.

In 2010, competing to qualify for the Miss Washington pageant, she won the title of Miss Tahoma in a “sweeper,” or open pageant, which she qualified for by being a previous title winner. She was fourth runnerup. In 2011, she won the Miss Seattle crown. (Residency requirements in these contests are somewhat flexible).

In 2012, she studied abroad in Zambia and Turkey.

She won the Miss Grays Harbor crown in 2013. She competed in the Miss Washington pageant that year against her sister, Paige, who was Miss Apple Valley.

Lauren Kuhn thought she was done with pageants, her mother said Friday. She decided to volunteer at the local pageant office in Massachusetts, thinking her experience might help. But it didn’t take pageant organizers long to spot a winner. They asked her to run.

She debated, then decided. “She knew what she was getting into. She wasn’t really sure how she would do on a different coast,” her mother said. First, she won Miss Collegiate Area, then took the top state prize.

Now, at 23, Lauren Kuhn is poised to compete for the biggest crown of them all. “This is like the Super Bowl for us,” her mother said.

She is one of two pianists in the pageant where 27 are vocalists and 20 are dancers, her mother said. She arranged and will play “Valse dramatico” by Melody Bober. “She jazzed it up,” said her mother.

Fans can help vote Kuhn into the Top 15 by going to missamerica.org and voting for her.

The pageant will be broadcast on Seattle’s KOMO-TV Channel 4 on Sunday (Sept. 14). Pre-pageant starts at 8 p.m., the contest runs from 9 to 11 p.m. in tape delay.

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