Mongeon promoting 4-H, ATV safety in pageant

4-H agent Traci Mongeon of Ackerman recently earned the title of Mrs. Mississippi International and will travel to Chicago in July to compete for the title of Mrs. International 2012.

Mongeon said she felt compelled to compete in the Mrs. Mississippi International pageant after learning that the Mrs. International pageant focuses on giving back to the community and helping others.

"After looking into it further, I learned the scoring system promotes physical fitness, which counts for 25 percent of a contestant's score. The interview is worth 50 percent, and the evening gown competition counts for the last 25 percent of the score," she said. "That was an appealing combination. I knew that I would be growing personally along the way to the national competition."

Mongeon, a 42-year-old mother of two, said she does not usually compete in pageants, but she made an exception for the Mrs. Mississippi International pageant.

"I had only been in one pageant since high school," she said. "I decided to do the pageant with my daughter since she had never been in one, and they had a married division. It turned out to be a great experience."

An active volunteer, Mongeon is no stranger to giving back to her community. She started a multi-county Environmental Day and raised money for a local animal shelter and 4-H program through a Choctaw County 5K event. Now she is reaching a larger audience.

A Choctaw County 4-H agent for the past four years, Mongeon saw the pageant as an opportunity to promote 4-H and a cause she is passionate about: ATV safety. The winner of Mrs. International will spend a year promoting a charity and platform of her choice.

"As Mrs. Mississippi International, I plan to assist and speak at events concerning 4-H and ATV safety," she said. "At the Mrs. International competition, I will be promoting 4-H."

Juli Hughes, MSU Extension Service director in Choctaw County, said 4-H will benefit from Mongeon's promotion of the program.

"Promoting 4-H will increase awareness of the program, the project areas it offers and its benefits. Youth are our future leaders, so we need to get them involved in 4-H to teach them leadership skills as well as life skills," Hughes said. "Increasing the number of adult volunteers who use their skills to educate youth will also benefit the overall 4-H program."

Mongeon said ATV safety is an important issue that warrants attention.

"When we, as 4-H agents and staff, hear of yet another terrible ATV accident, we know there are more people to reach with our educational programs," she said. "I feel I speak for all 4-H families when I say we are glad to have the training and resources to be able to do just that."

Hughes said Mongeon has been conducting ATV safety classes at Choctaw County public schools in an effort to bring awareness to the issue.

"Both youth and adults need to learn about ATV safety so they can operate an ATV responsibly," Hughes said.

Regardless of the outcome of the Mrs. International pageant in July, Mongeon has an opportunity to raise awareness about 4-H and the importance of ATV safety during her time as Mrs. Mississippi International.

"It is an honor to represent Mississippi in this role," said Mongeon. "Being Mrs. Mississippi International will allow me to share ATV safety with those I might not otherwise reach."

Kaitlyn Byrne | MSU Ag Communications

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