There are many reasons why people work to spread breast cancer awareness. In part, it’s to honor and remember those who have fought this disease and those who have died from it. It’s also about fundraising for important research and the search for a cure. And of course, it’s also an important way to remind women to go to their regular screenings and do monthly self-exams on their breasts, because catching cancer early is the best thing we can do to help stop it in its tracks.

Now there’s a new young breast cancer advocate on the rise, and she’s making waves in more than just the breast cancer community. Caitlin Uriarte, a graduate student at the School of Public Health, is representing the state of New Jersey in the National U.S. Scholarship Pageant and using her newfound fame to put the spotlight on breast cancer awareness.

Photo: Facebook/Cait Uriarte

Caitlin says she was inspired to become Miss New Jersey Collegiate USA after one of her friends competed in the environment-focused Miss Earth pageant. She knew that she, too, wanted to focus on social responsibility in some way during her time as a pageant contestant.

Caitlin found the National U.S. Scholarship Pageant on social media and applied to be New Jersey’s representative. She was chosen for the position and hopes to use the opportunity to serve others.

“It is about service…It’s about going out into different communities and making an impact to better the lives of others while representing New Jersey,” she says.

Photo: Facebook/Summit Warm Hearts

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As Miss New Jersey Collegiate USA, Caitlin has also had the chance to travel all over her state in support of underserved communities. She’s been using her background in public health and her undergraduate experience as a health outreach, promotion, and education peer educator at Rutgers to inform her actions. Her official platform is breast cancer awareness.

“As an aspiring public health professional…I really do believe education and outreach can help reduce the number of people affected by this disease,” Caitlin says.

Caitlin has a passion for event planning and is using that to help her cause. She has already planned a live-stream breast cancer fundraising concert with the band Green Knuckle Material. The proceeds will go to the organizations Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Bright Pink.

Photo: Facebook/Cait Uriarte

Caitlin knows the stereotype of superficiality that generally accompanies pageantry, but there’s a wide range of pageant systems, and she’s chosen one that is a good match for her and her social responsibility goals. She also says pageantry has improved her confidence, and she hopes her work can inspire others.

“I feel comfortable in my own skin, and that’s how I felt at Rutgers,” she says. “And it’s kind of interesting to find something like that, and I guess I was trying to find that after college, and I found it in pageantry.”

Caitlin encourages other young women to “trust the process” and step out of their comfort zones to make a difference in the world.

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