Potter Elementary’s ‘Future Miss Massachusetts’ named second runner-up decade later

Jun 26, 2024

When Mya Leonardo, 21, was in the fifth grade at Potter Elementary School, she met a Miss Massachusetts winner for the first time, and was immediately “starstruck.”

Her beauty, her poise, the way she spoke with confidence and empowered the students with her work — Leonardo was inspired. Flipping back through her yearbook from that year, Leonardo finds hers immortalized as her class’s “Future Miss Massachusetts.”

Though her dream of winning the title has not quite come to fruition yet, Leonardo competed for a third time at the Miss Massachusetts Competition on Saturday, June 22, securing the place of second runner-up and a scholarship prize of $2,500.

“It still feels absolutely unreal,” Leonardo said of her results. “I'm so ecstatic and proud of myself, of the hard work I've put in, and to see it pay off is awesome.”

The Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization that hosts a competition annually awarding scholarship money. This year, 25 women competed and Kiersten Khoury received the first place prize of $15,000 along with the title of Miss Massachusetts.

“Kiersten Khoury is the most phenomenal young woman,” Leonardo said. “I am so happy that she won. She deserves all the best. … I'm really grateful to have been up there with her and the other women around me. It was truly the most amazing experience.”

Leonardo graduated from Dartmouth High School in 2021 and is heading into her senior year at Northeastern University, studying biology on the pre-dental track. She said she plans to attend dental school following graduation.

Her community service initiative goes hand-in-hand with her passion for the dental industry. Leonardo works for Smart Smiles, a school-based oral health program focused on dental disease prevention.

Her work so far has involved publishing a children’s book titled, “Maggie and Her Powerful Braces,” and she hopes to publish another called, “Maggie’s Trip to the Dentist,” within the next month.

Leonardo said she has also held free oral hygiene workshops at schools across the commonwealth. With her, she brings “Molar the Dragon,” who aids her in interacting with the kids and practicing their techniques, as well as a supply of toothbrushes to hand out that she collected through the Smart Smiles Toothbrush Drive.

“I teach the importance of taking care of their teeth while also being confident in who they are and confident in their smile because that’s also important,” she added. 

She said her goal within the next year is to establish her own nonprofit, the Pearly Whites Foundation.

Along with dentistry, Leonardo has a passion for dance, which is part of what encouraged her to begin competing in pageants in 2018. 

She joined Erin Rae’s School of dance around the age of 15 and that’s when she realized, “I need to do this,”she said. 

For her talent portion of Miss Massachusetts, Leonardo performed a tap dance to Andy Grammar’s “Good To Be Alive,” which she hopes “got the crowd going” and showed off her bubbly personality.

Of the classes Leonardo has been a part of for Miss Massachusetts, this year was “the best class ever,” she said. 

She talked about how often she can get in her own head about her performance, which makes her nervous. However, this year was different.

“I feel like because I was having so much fun and I was enjoying myself so much that once I got to finals night, I felt so at ease with the way I performed, the way I carried myself, that no matter what happened Saturday night, I was going to feel happy with what I what I showed in that week to the judges and what I showed to the community,” Leonardo said.

She added she hopes to carry this same energy into the next season and encourages other young women to get involved.

“This organization has benefited me so much in the past six years, with interview skills, public speaking, networking, finding my true self, elevating my confidence [and] finding the most amazing sisterhood,” Leonardo said, adding she would be happy to help and anyone interested can contact her at mjleonardo12@gmail.com.