HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Karen Hosova is a 19-year-old from Sharpsburg who will be representing Maryland in the National American Miss pageant in November.

“As a state titleholder and even as a national titleholder, you are representing so many people with different beliefs than you, so my goal especially as a first-gen, was to show others that I am listening to them and I am hearing them and I am always doing my research – I’m a poli-sci student, so I love to do that – of all the people in Maryland and speak for as many people as possible,” Hosova said.

She first competed in this pageant when she was 13. This year’s competition is a return from a hiatus as she adjusted to her freshman year of college. It will also be her second time competing nationally after winning National American Miss Maryland Junior Teen.

“It didn’t even feel like competing against them; if anything, we’re competing with ourselves. It was a really great sisterhood and a great experience to do that with them, and I wanted to come back,” she said.

The National American Miss pageant aims to “grow confidence and teach real-world skills,” according to their website. Hosova said that the pageant not only helped her get over her stage fright, but also put a lot of emphasis on individuality and passion.

“You have to focus on your own strengths and your own goals,” she stated.

Hosova, a graduate from Boonsboro High School, has been volunteering at local organizations in Hagerstown such as Girls Inc. of Washington County and Meals on Wheels.

“As a first-generation American, I’ve always believed in inclusivity and talking about that and empowering people,” she said. “I’m proud to be from the Czech Republic, my parents and I, we celebrate cultures differently, and I like to talk about this, but I never put it on a large enough scale. As Miss Maryland, you should have that platform, you should have something you’re passionate about because you do have the influence to speak on it.”

Hosova has been using her platform to empower other women through her page, Women Supporting Women, which she began prior to the pageant.

She said her “goal is to show others how they can be more inclusive and accepting.”