Two Newman University standouts are making a name for themselves in the world of pageantry.
Nursing student Michelle Tong won Miss Vietnam Wichita 2022 while alumna Gabby Altenor placed top 10 for Miss Kansas.
Michelle Tong is Miss Vietnam Wichita
Tong, who was also crowned Miss Interview in the Miss Vietnam Wichita pageant, earned her titles this past June.
“I am incredibly honored to be given this opportunity to represent Wichita’s Vietnamese community for the next year and at the upcoming Wichita Asian Festival Scholarship Pageant in October,” she said. “I am excited to show off my Vietnamese heritage.”
In her year of service as Miss Vietnam Wichita, Tong plans to build connections with other Asian communities in Wichita. She also hopes to launch intentional programming to encourage Vietnamese youth to embrace their culture and grow up proud to share it with others.
“The pageant was a great opportunity to grow in confidence and leadership, and I am sure that the organization will help me to hone in on those skills and transfer them to wherever my career takes me in the future,” she said.
Led by her personal mission
Tong encourages anyone who is considering taking part in a cultural pageant to go for it.
“And when you do,” she added, “don’t forget to be unapologetically you on that stage. You might not know it, but there is a whole community rooting you on and wishing you the best from start to finish.”
At Newman, Tong has been heavily involved in such organizations as the Multicultural Leadership Organization (MCLO) and will serve as president this upcoming school year. She’s also part of Newman Chorale, the Asian Student Association, Gardening Club and Newman President Kathleen Jagger’s Student Cabinet. Tong currently works on campus as a resident assistant and student coordinator in the Admissions Office. This past year, she received Newman’s Student Employee of the Year Award.
As for her involvement in MCLO specifically, Tong feels its mission is similar to her personal one with Miss Vietnam Wichita.
“I am glad that I may be able to overlap my passions in both of these organizations this next year,” she said, adding that she’s thankful for all the support she’s received from Newman. “Some people in the communities I have found myself in at Newman helped and encouraged me to keep moving forward in the pageant, and I am forever grateful to them.”
Gabby Altenor places top 10 for Miss Kansas
Altenor, a 2020 biology graduate and former student body president, currently serves as Miss Capital City 2022 in addition to being named one of the top 10 for Miss Kansas.
“It’s not just wearing a crown but modeling everything its four points represent — service, style, success and scholarship,” she explained of her role as Miss Capital City. “It is also my first year living outside of Wichita full time since graduating from Newman, so I use my title to explore Topeka and cultivate the same types of community I’ve known in my life.”
Altenor said the mission of the Miss America Organization is to prepare great women for the world and the world for great women, which also guides her service as Miss Capital City.
During her time with the title, Altenor has been volunteering in the community and raising money for scholarships. In addition to raising more than $6,000 for educational opportunities for young women in Kansas, she’s served at local events like the Combat Air Museum’s annual Celebrity Pancake Feed and Love Fellowship Church’s CommuniTea.
Applying her pageant skills to the field of law
Outside of her work as a titleholder, Altenor attends law school at Washburn University, where she recently completed her first year. She’s currently working as a summer associate at Martin Pringle Law Firm in Wichita. After she earns her law degree in two years, she hopes to return to Wichita to practice.
Altenor’s budding career in law has already been aided by her experience with pageants.
“I’ve been able to benefit in my oral argument as a first-year law student through all I’ve learned in my Miss Kansas preparation: having concise answers, exhibiting confidence and projecting my thoughts clearly,” she said. “I have no doubt that my Miss Kansas experience will only make me a better attorney in practice as well.”
Altenor added, “Just like my experience as Newman’s student body president, competing in the Miss Kansas competition and serving as Miss Capital City will surely be the gift that keeps on giving.”