Ellie Smith, Miss Nevada for 2014, began her freshman year at BYU this semester as a musical theater major, an anti-bullying advocate and a Catholic.
Students on campus wonder why Smith decided to come to BYU, a foreign atmosphere far from home. But to Smith, the decision was simple.
“BYU’s musical theater program is one of the best in the country, and that is why I am majoring in it. That’s why I am here,” she told The Universe.
She is excited to get involved in the university, despite differences she may have with other students.
“Everyone is so welcoming, and I think that’s the best part, so I don’t think it’ll be too hard of a transition,” she said. “Anyone would be a little scared going into something if they aren’t used to it, but I’m a really strong Catholic and I’m really grounded in my faith. Plus our faiths are so similar, and we all believe the same basics.”
Only 1.5 percent of students at BYU are not LDS, according to Y facts. However, all students still abide by the Honor Code and live by the standards set at BYU.
Smith attended Young Ambassadors Singing Entertainers summer camp during her high school years and said she immediately fell in love with the campus.
She will perform in BYU’s musical, “Count of Monte Cristo,” as a chorus member and understudying the female lead role.
“She is right where she needs to be. She can benefit a ton from this excellent Musical Dance Theater Program, and the program will benefit having her in it,” said Taylor Morris, head counselor at YASE programs.
Beyond campus, Smith is excited to thrive in an atmosphere where she can live among other students who have similar lifestyles.
“My standards and my morals are the exact same as (BYU’s); I might as well be LDS. Because I believe in the Honor Code, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do any of that.”
Smith won the Miss Nevada pageant at 17, making her not only the youngest Miss Nevada in history but also the youngest competitor in this year’s Miss America pageant.
Her platform, anti-bullying, teaches teenage students the harm of physical, verbal and social media abuse. Smith visits schools around Nevada with a presentation that includes a self-produced music video entitled, “Don’t Let It Get to You” and a co-written novel, “Girl Lead.” She hopes to expand her presentation to youth groups in the Provo area.
The Miss America Pageant will air live on ABC on Sept. 14. To vote to get Miss Nevada through to the top 15, visit http://www.missamerica.org/videocontest/contestants/nevada.aspx.
“For now, I’m just grateful to be Miss Nevada and to be able to continue my education,” Smith said.