Truman High School graduate Hayley Lewis, Miss Tennessee, isn’t the only reigning pageant winner from an Independence high school.

William Chrisman High School 2008 graduate Morgan McMichen, 24, of Kansas City, was named Miss Czech-Slovak US on Aug. 3. She represented the state of Missouri at the national Miss Czech-Slovak US pageant in Wilber, Nebraska, where she competed with 10 other contestants who hailed from Georgia to Texas.

Miss Czech-Slovak US is a heritage pageant that focuses on each contestant’s knowledge and pride of their Slavic culture, rather than solely on beauty, McMichen says.

“Contestants must be between the ages of 16-26, a single and unwed female, and of Czech, Slovak and Silesian descent,” she added about the ethnic pageant. “The Miss Czech-Slovak US pageant searches for a young woman who loves her heritage and want to promote the Czech and Slovak culture across the United States.”

The pageant comprises of four categories: Private interview, on-stage interview, Kroj (costume) modeling and talent. McMichen, who grew up in Independence, won both the Oratory Award and Best Authentic Kroj. For the talent portion of the pageant, McMichen performed an original skit created by her aunt, grandma and herself based on a Czech-Slovak fairytale.

“Although I have been asked to compete in other beauty pageants, I have only competed in the Miss Czech-Slovak US pageant,” she said in an e-mail. “I chose this pageant over others because it allows me to highlight something I am most passion about - my Czech heritage.”

McMichen said she could not be more proud of her heritage and always has been intrigued by the differences of people in other lands as long as she could remember. She discovered that her first Czech relatives arrived in the midst of the American Civil War, escaping the Austro-Hungarian war. This led her to compete in the Czech-Slovak pageant, as well as earning a degree in anthropology at the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

“My ancestry is more than just a piece of my past; it is a cinder block of who I am today,” she said.

The pageant winner recalls having her mother recite a Czech poem as a child so just she could hear the exotic, bohemian language over and over. Nowadays she shares traditions that she has learned with her nieces and nephews, plus fixing ‘kolacky,’ a Central Europe pastry, with her siblings.

Now as a national Czech-Slovak queen, she will preserve her Slavic culture by increasing youth involvement at Central European ethnic festivals all over the country. Also, she aspires to pursue a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology, a study of people and their cultures.

She is currently working on a master’s in foreign languages and literatures at UMKC.

“I want to pursue a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology because I wish to focus my studies on cultural understanding/awareness and the nature of modern conflict to better serve my community, country and world.” She adds that with this doctorate, she is hoping to mentor world leaders in dealing with conflict and resolution at the United Nations.

As winner of the 2014 Czech-Slovak US pageant, McMichen was awarded a total of $5,500 in scholarships and a trip to visit the Czech-Republic and other Slavic countries.