COLORADO SPRINGS — An Air Force Academy Senior was crowned Miss Colorado over the weekend. In addition to that title, she'll be graduating from the Air Force Academy in just two days.
Madison Marsh is the first military officer to hold the title at the National Miss America competition, and the first cadet from any service academy to win a pageant like Miss Colorado. She’s also using her platform to advocate for an issue close to her heart.
“It was so special. In some of the pictures I dropped all the way to the ground, and was sobbing,” said Marsh, as she spoke about holding the hand of the first runner-up. She said that was someone she competed with in her first couple pageants, as she began competing nearly four years ago.
“I thought, this kind of looks fun, I can dress up. But then the most important part was the platform piece. I had the opportunity to educate people on what it looks like to be a woman in the military, to educate people on pancreatic cancer,” said Marsh.
As reigning Miss Academy, she began dedicating her time to supporting pancreatic cancer research and awareness. Her mother passed away from pancreatic cancer four years ago.
“My mom was 41 years old, completely healthy, big runner, a triathlete, and didn’t have any of the risk factors,” said Marsh, who added, that the 5-year survival rate is 12%. “I want to use my year to be a voice for people who can no longer have a voice for themselves, because they don't get to be with us anymore, because they've had to battle one of the most difficult cancers.”
Marsh has shared her mother's story to advocate for cancer research in front of congress, and also began a foundation in her mother's name called the Whitney Marsh Foundation. During her year as Miss Academy, she also spoke to audiences of all ages about pancreatic cancer research and awareness.
“No one else has to go through what my mom went through what my family went through, and so that's why pancreatic cancer is so important, because early detection, and that advocacy is truly key to survival,” said Marsh.
Marsh said her mom was the first person she thought of, after being crowned Miss Colorado.
“As soon as I got up, I thought of my mom, knowing that she would have done anything to get to be there, and I know she was probably jumping up and down somewhere so excited ” said Marsh.
Whether it's putting on heels for a pageant, or putting on a military uniform, she hopes to inspire others, and show others that women can serve their community and their country at the same time.
“The whole point of me wanting to use this platform and this title, is showing other women that might be hesitant to join the military, that you can serve outside of your uniform. I get to serve outside of this sash,” said Marsh.
In just a matter of a week, she went from Miss Academy to Miss Colorado, and will be going from an Air Force Academy cadet to a commissioned officer. Marsh described this past weekend as a “whirlwind.” She said she rehearsed and competed for three days straight, but the women there were supportive of one another. She also said that night, she received a Community Service Initiative Award, for her work in founding the Whitney Marsh Foundation.
Marsh said she’s a physics major with an astrophysics focus, and then over the semester, she began to switch over to pancreatic cancer and artificial intelligence application.
She’s been accepted to Harvard Kennedy School to get her master's degree in public policy. She plans to work with their medical school for early detection and pancreatic cancer research, and continue sharing her mother’s story. She said she’ll also be lobbying in Denver, and travel back to Colorado often.
Marsh will compete in the National Miss America competition in January.
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