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MU Alumnus to Compete in Miss New Jersey USA

Monmouth University alumna, Margaret “Maggie” Abitanto, is heading to the Miss New Jersey USA Pageant this 2024 season after a year of preparation and her self-help journey.

Abitanto is a 2022 graduate who studied criminal justice and was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) where she served a term as president, as well as the role of risk management. She carried out her risk management role when COVID-19 first hit America. During that time, she turned her position as risk management into a position that focused on mental health. Since then, mental health has remained an important aspect of her life post-college.

Post-graduation, Abitanto is working at AmeriHealth, a health insurance carrier, as a broker executive. However, while being in “the real world” after college, Abitanto realized she didn’t have any hobbies or platforms to talk about things she is passionate about, such as mental health. This led her to creating her podcast “Loving Myself Podcast,” volunteering at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), as well as preparing to compete in Miss NJ USA.

The Miss NJ USA Pageant will take place March 15-17, 2024, at the Hilton Parsippany in Parsippany, New Jersey, and is run by the Miss Universe organization. Each contestant will compete in three preliminary competitions: the interview round, the swimsuit round, and the evening gown round. Abitanto explained in her podcast that she believes the interview round is the most important because it shows the contestant’s true values and why they believe they should win.

This would not be Abitanto’s first time competing in a pageant as she participated in the teen division when she was seventeen, in addition to another pageant when she was eight. Abitanto explained she wanted to do the pageant last year but was not in the right mindset. However, this year, she felt like she could do it after doing a lot to better herself. Not only is Abitanto trying to help herself, but also wants to help the community and people in areas that are affected by the same things that she is passionate about.

Abitanto emphasized the importance of this pageant to her. She acknowledged her love for the “glitz and the glam,” but also explained she is truthfully doing it for the message behind it. She explained, “[The pageant] is about putting a lot into yourself and getting to a position where you could help other people. I think that gets looked over a lot.”

Derby Chukwudi, the current titleholder of Miss NJ USA, holds very similar morals. She said, “The journey isn’t just about competing, it is about self-discovery and growth. The entire training process leading up to competition is mind blowing and motivating. It is a combination of grit, discipline, hard work, and determination… After hours of preparing, you get to show the judges the result of the process. It’s a nerve wracking but also fun process because it shows how much work you’ve put in and most importantly, how much you believe in yourself.”

Chukwudi uses her social media platforms to empower her viewers, as someone who values authenticity, similarly to Abitanto. Chukwudi continued, “In that moment [of being crowned Miss NJ], I was showing women around the world that being authentic pays off, and being proud of who they are is an instrumental aspect of their journey.”

AOII’s current president, Maleah Salomone, emphasized how she was fortunate to have Abitanto as a role model during their shared time during her undergraduate years. Salomone underscored, “[Maggie] accomplished so much growth for our chapter and worked through a new world of virtual connections and communication, an adversity that was sudden and unanticipated. Her work in keeping connected in a time of isolation was so important to all, and looking back she is responsible for creating a sense of belonging and stability for a group of collegiate women.”

Salomone is proud of Abitanto’s authenticity and explained how happy she is to see her sharing her kindness, grace, and passion publicly as she is the exact alumni member anyone would want to demonstrate as a post-graduate role model. She further elaborated that she is confident her candidacy will inspire many.

Abitanto explained that she could not have gotten this far without the experiences she had in college. She emphasized, “I definitely believe college had a huge impact on where I am today. Maturity wise, I feel like the experience I went through personally throughout college had such an impact on who I am today… I think that the positions I held [in the sorority] and situations at hand with the organization really prepared me for my role in the corporate world. So many of the skills you learn in college are very transferable to real life.”

Those skills that she developed in college have left an impression on many students as Salomone revealed, “Maggie’s impact on our chapter has shown to leave a lasting presence of inspiration and outstanding leadership. The fact she continues to give back to our organization while balancing and navigating life after college goes to show her character and dedication is truly admirable.”

Abitanto ‘s ultimate goal is to win the title for the right reasons. Those reasons, she explained, are to show others to stay true to yourself, help others, and love yourself. She would also like to continue volunteering at NAMI and developing her podcast, with the hope of getting better guests, such as people from organizations that connect with the areas that she is passionate about.

Abitanto summarized, “There’s so much I feel I could do with my time, and the pageant is just the first step, so winning would open [those] doors for myself.”