MADISON, Wis. - Miss Black USA 2019 TeKema Balentine, 25, will soon head home to Madison after winning the national title in Washington, D.C.
In the meantime, the community is celebrating her strength and dedication, especially to the health industry.
"This is the oldest pageant in the country for young women of color. And to see somebody from our city and from our state hold that national title should be very, very encouraging to all young girls in this community," said Michael Johnson, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County.
He said Balentine's road to Miss Black USA was not easy or cheap.
"She drove there on her own. She didn't fly. She raised the money for gas. She was willing to sleep in her car to participate. She didn't have the money to purchase her dresses and she asked the community to step up and help, so we were glad at Boys and Girls Clubs to be one of many people that was willing to support her along this journey," said Johnson.
Small donations from around the state helped Balentine reach her goal. The Madison College student is now being seen as a role model.
"Here's an incredible young woman who is working in our community, getting a degree in nursing, as well as getting this national attention and all that it takes to prepare for that. So we are beaming with pride," said Lucia Nunez, vice president of equity, inclusion and community engagement at Madison College.
Now, with a national platform, Balentine can help educate and empower young people, especially about their own health care -- something she's been doing for almost a decade through the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health's Providers and Teens Communicating for Health, or PATCH, program in Madison.
"As a teen, she was the expert teaching doctors, nurses, others on the front lines of health care how to provide the best adolescent health care possible," said Sara Finger, the founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health.
At age 16, Balentine became a teen educator to help bridge the communication gap between providers and adolescent patients.
"As she is going to nursing school, she is still on our community advisory team for our current Dane County PATCH program, and so she's still giving back. She's still part of the advisory group that's helping foster the next generation of teen educators," said Finger. "I'm just so excited to know that TeKema will be in a place to inspire so many more people, especially young women of color."
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