For a someone who grew up in the dry Mid-Columbia, Hawaii provided an exotic place to attend college for Samantha Brown.
The Columbia High School graduate and Miss Tri-Cities 2014 spent two years at Chaminade University in Honolulu, falling in love with the diverse cultures that call it home, swimming with sharks and skydiving.
"I really just wanted to go off and do something different," Brown, 20, told the Herald.
She returned to Washington this year, saying she wanted to earn her communications degree at Washington State University in Pullman.
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But at the back of her mind was her desire to compete for the Miss Tri-Cities crown, building on her success as a former Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen and spread her message of the importance of higher education.
"It's always one of those things I wanted to do," Brown said of her new role.
The second of two children, Brown spent her whole upbringing in Burbank. She was active in her education, going through the Running Start program in high school, while taking dancing and vocal classes outside of school.
She also began competing in pageants at a young age with friends, which grew into something more and culminated in her winning Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen as she prepared for her sophomore year in high school
"It's a great family to be around," Brown said. "I saw it as helping myself."
With college-educated parents, higher education was a foregone conclusion for Brown, but growing up in Burbank, she said she knew many who were dedicated and talented students but didn't know how to go about their education after high school.
That led Brown to make higher education her pageant platform and become a proponent of the WSU GEAR UP program, which does outreach to students interested in attending college.
"They just wanted us to succeed," she said of when GEAR UP staff visited her high school.
Dot Stewart, executive director of the scholarship pageant program, worked with Brown when the Burbank native was Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen. Stewart said she is looking forward to working with Brown throughout the next year as they prepare for the Miss Washington competition, and with how each year's pageant continues to help women in the Mid-Columbia.
"My goal for our pageant is to have scholarship dollars for everyone," Stewart said.
The $12,000 scholarship prize awarded to Miss Tri-Cities this year will be a big help in finishing college, Brown said. But she is also happy to be back with her pageant family and calling for more access to higher education for anyone who wants the opportunity.
"I love speaking to other students who don't think they have a bright future and telling them they do," she said.
Other pageant awards
The following are the other top finishers in the Miss Tri-Cities 2014 contest as well as prizes awarded in the Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2014 contest.
-- Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen: Paige Rebstock
-- First Runner-Up: Taylee Harker
-- Miss Congeniality: Salina Thomas
-- Top Talent and Top Interview: Paige Rebstock
-- Living Your Platform: Paige Rebstock
-- Academic Award: Taylee Harker
-- People's Choice: Paige Rebstock
-- Top Ad Sales: Alaina Pier
-- Miss Tri-Cities: Samantha Brown
-- First Runner-Up: Nakiya Belford
-- Second Runner-Up: Stefanie Maier
-- Top Talent and Interview: Nakiya Belford
-- Non-finalist Talent: Carly Knight
-- Non-Finalist Interview: Kelsey Warner & Whitney Pitt
-- Anita Nelson Scholarship Award: Kassidee Ellis
-- Miss Congeniality: Whitney Pitt
-- Academic Award: Annabeth Guzman
-- Spirit Award: Stefanie Maier
-- Spirit of America Leadership Award: Hayley Foraker
-- People's Choice: Hayley Foraker
-- Living Your Platform: Carly Knight
-- Four Points of the Crown: Kelsey Warner
-- Top Ad Sales: Katelyn Coomes
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald