Herald Photo / Provided
CROWING MOMENT  — Kokomo High School junior Skyelar Winner gets crowned Miss Cardinal at IU Kokomo Havens Auditorium on March 5.
Herald Photo / Provided CROWING MOMENT — Kokomo High School junior Skyelar Winner gets crowned Miss Cardinal at IU Kokomo Havens Auditorium on March 5.
Pageants are in Kokomo High School junior Skyelar Winner’s blood. 

The teen took the title of Miss Cardinal on March 5, a title that will give her a shot at competing for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, the little sister to Miss America. But that wasn’t her first time on stage. 

The junior first was brought on stage by her mother, Ragina, when Ragina was four months pregnant with Winner. During that pageant, Ragina was competing in Las Vegas for the title of Mrs. United States as the titleholder of Mrs. Indiana United States. She placed in the top 12. 

That story, said Winner, 17, has had her looking forward to competing in her own pageants from a young age. Now with a title of her own, she said it’s an honor. 

“It really shows me how far I’ve come in life because I remember not even knowing how to fill out all this complicated paperwork, and being able to do all these things on my own means I’ve grown up. It shows me how much I’ve matured through life because I remember being a little girl and being like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I can’t wait to be in pageants. I can’t wait until I’m old enough,’” she said. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always been interested in pageants, and it was my mom who was the one who inspired me to start with this.” 

The pageant took place at IU Kokomo Havens Auditorium. Winner now will represent Central Indiana at the Miss Indiana and Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen scholarship program in Zionsville in June. If Winner advances again, she will have a shot at the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, the teen version of Miss America, and a chance to win scholarship dollars. 

During the pageant, Winner pushed her platform, Second Chance to Dance. Winner co-founded the charity with her high school dance coach Gina Curl, alongside Curl’s daughter, Hunter, who’s also a teacher at Kokomo High School. 

The charity affords the opportunity of dance to less fortunate families by collecting gently-used dancewear that will be redistributed to those families. Winner also plans to host free dance workshops. 

As a studio-trained dancer from age 3 up until last year when KHS got its own dance team, Winner said she knows how expensive it is for families.  

“A pair of jazz shoes costs anywhere from $20 to $40, and if you’re interested in ballet, pointe shoes can cost anywhere from $100 to $300. Then the lessons at studios can range from $25 to $1,000, depending on where you want to go if you want the training, so it’s really, really expensive to dance,” she said. 

While she’s aware of the cost, she also aware of the benefits of dance. The Miss Cardinal pointed out that dance has been shown to reduce depression. She also noted that more teens than people may be aware of are affected by depression. According to Mental Health America, each year almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, commit suicide. Her hope is to get more people involved in dance at a young age in the hopes to reducing depression in the teen years. 

“Dancing has so many positive benefits for people who do it, even if you’re just someone who likes to go to parties and dance with your friends. It reduces the chance of dementia when you’re older. It reduces depression in teens, and 20 percent of American teens between 14 and 19 have depression or have had depression at least once in their life. Maybe if Second Chance to Dance can get spread out all throughout Indiana, then maybe that could help reduce the percentage and maybe even get spread out through America. That would be my ultimate goal,” she said. 

Winner plans to use the platform of Miss Cardinal to help get the word out about Second Chance to Dance. Donation boxes will be set up at Dance Elite, the Kokomo YMCA, and at Kokomo High School. 

In addition to being on the KHS state-qualifying dance team, Winner also is a representative of KHS Girls’ League, member of Student Council, member of Health Occupations Students of America, a school ambassador, a varsity cheerleader, and member of Junior Honor Society. 

Ragina said she’s proud of her daughter and the effort she puts into her commitments. 

“I’m very proud of Skyelar. Anybody that knows her in this town knows she’s different. She is a standout among her peers. I’m not saying that as her mom, but I’m just saying if I was standing outside watching her, I would say that she’s not your average, typical teenager. She’s the person that always tries to stand up and do the right thing,” Ragina said. 

With two younger daughters, ages 12 and 4, Ragina said, through tears, that Winner has made her job as a mom so much easier. 

“I tell her all that time that, ‘You’ve made my job as a mom so easy because your sisters look up to you.’ That’s why I wanted her to win it because I thought you have all these kids out doing drugs, having sex, and she’s always the one that steps to the side. Sometimes it’s hard as a teenager. Sometimes it puts you on the side because you’re not going to the parties because you know what’s going on. She might be sitting at home on a Friday night when she’s not busy doing something because she doesn’t want to put herself in that type of position. So that really more than anything is the reason I wanted her so badly to win it,” she said. 

Winner plans to attend IU Kokomo to receive her Associate’s Degree and then obtain a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University in Respiratory Therapy.