Miss Florida is a Gator — again.
Myrrhanda Jones, a 20-year-old UF telecommunication junior and UF Delta Delta Delta sorority sister, won the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant Saturday night.
She was crowned by Miss Florida 2012, Laura McKeeman, who graduated from UF. Jones will compete for the Miss America title in September.
“I’m so proud to represent the Gator Nation,” she said.
She went to Miss Florida this year as Miss Palm Coast and competed against 46 other women from all over the state. The contestants competed in four categories: private interviews, swimwear, evening gowns and talent performances.
Jones wore a black jersey-knit gown with minimal rhinestones chosen by her dad.
“It was the image I wanted to portray for myself for Miss Florida,” she said.
Delta Delta Delta member and UF political science junior Kelsey Torgerson, 20, said it’s an honor to be Jones’ sister.
“We’re just so proud of her and all of the positive images she’s going to bring to the state,” she said.
Jones started participating in pageants in 2009, so she could perform baton twirling on stage and potentially win scholarship money.
Last week that dream was realized when she won a preliminary talent award and $21,300 by the end of the week.
“It meant the world to me that I finally had won a talent award,” she said. “At that moment, I didn’t care about what happened on Saturday. I didn’t care about finals any more.”
Jones also won the community service-based Quality of Life Award for her work with Comfort For Kids Inc., the nonprofit she founded.
When she was 12, Jones was in an accident that took the life of her younger sister, whose favorite stuffed animal was a monkey named Clarice.
“I started passing out stuffed animal monkeys to get through my grieving process,” she said.
In the pageant, each contestant was required to have a platform — an issue in America she cares about and wants to address. Jones’ was Comfort For Kids Inc.
She never lost sight of that mission.
Saturday night, the competition narrowed down to Jones and Kalen Dennis, who was Miss River City 2013.
“I was so at peace in that moment, and then they said, ‘And the first runner-up is Miss River City,’” Jones said. “My first thought was ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ I was left on this earth for a very good reason, and I feel like I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Jones said her goal for the year as Miss Florida is to recruit sponsors for the Miss America Organization and to raise awareness about the Everglades.