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RHS alum Madeline Cooper named Miss UNA

It may have come a month late, but for University of North Alabama junior Madeline Cooper, the wait for the Miss UNA pageant was well worth it, as she was crowned the 49th Miss UNA in the 50th year of the event.

Originally set for January 20th, the program was rescheduled to February 16th due to severe winter weather, ice and impassable roads the week it was supposed to take place.

Cooper, a 2022 Russellville High School graduate, is the daughter of Matt and Greta Cooper of Russellville. Her two brothers, Bryson and Jack, are both students in the Russellville system. Cooper is a secondary education major with a focus in social science.

UNA officials could not have selected a better ambassador to represent the university over the next year. Participating in the Miss UNA event has been a goal for Cooper since she was nine years old.

In 2012, (RHS graduate) Anne Marie Hall was named Miss UNA and I was her Rising Star,” Cooper said. “I was nine and we did a dance routine together. That's when I decided I wanted to do the Miss UNA pageant.”

Rising Stars is a program of the Miss Alabama pageant through which Miss UNA participants serve as mentors for young ladies ages 7-11. The program gives the young girls exposure to what contestants experience in the program with the idea it will help them learn what's involved in taking part in the event.

Cooper will participate in the 2024 Miss Alabama Pageant, a week long event that culminates with the crowning of Miss Alabama on June 29th. While Cooper is looking forward to Miss Alabama, there could be no experience more special than being crowned Miss UNA.

Miss Alabama is wonderful and I'm so excited for it. I'll continue to prepare as I did for Miss UNA. But Miss UNA was my Miss America. Being Miss UNA has always been a dream of mine, so I'll continue in Miss Alabama while doing my best to continue to serve the University of Alabama,” Cooper said.

Miss UNA contestants are scored in five categories: private interview, on-stage conversation, fitness, talent and evening gown. In addition to being crowned Miss UNA, Cooper also won the Outstanding Service Award for her community service initiative, the Liberty Learning Foundation.

Liberty Learning Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes civic and character programs in secondary schools with the goal of empowering students, parents, community leaders and businesses to 'take ownership' of the future of their community and country.

Cooper participated in the program as a Russellville Middle School student and she plans to work with educational leaders in Colbert and Lauderdale Counties to bring Liberty Learning to schools in those counties.

Cooper will also use her platform as Miss UNA to encourage her fellow students to register to vote.

That's my main goal—to encourage voter registration—and help them figure out a plan to vote. Whether that's absentee voting, moving their residency to Florence or going back home to vote, we need more young people involved,” Cooper said.

She also plans to help her fellow students any way she can. It's all about her love for her university. Cooper also serves as a student ambassador in the LaGrange Society and she's a member of the University Council.

Rep. Jamie Kiel, who's known Cooper most of her life, said he's confident she will do an outstanding job representing her school.

Madeline is one of the most energetic and driven young ladies that I know,” Kiel said. “She has been a leader at UNA since she first stepped on campus. I was thrilled to be there to see her crowned Miss UNA.”

Cooper performed Don't Rain on My Parade, from the 1968 Barbara Streisand movie Funny Girl for the talent portion of the pageant.

Miss UNA debuted in 1974, and to celebrate the 50th year of the event, past winners were invited to come to Norton Auditorium to be honored as part of the 2024 pageant.

Cooper is a member of Phi Mu and her sorority was well-represented Friday night as nine of the 17 Miss UNA contestants are Phi Mu members.

Because there was no 2020 pageant due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cooper became the 49th, and not the 50th, Miss UNA.

In addition to the opportunity to represent her university at Miss Alabama, Cooper won a one-year tuition scholarship and a Miss UNA custom designed ring.



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