Elyse Umemoto, 23, is a proud Yakama Tribal member. Umemoto is the first Miss Washington of Native American decent. In Las Vegas on January 26th at the 2008 Miss America pageant, she was awarded the even higher distinction of Miss America second runner up. Umemoto says she would not have made it that far if it wasn't for her background on the Yakama Reservation.
"I have so much history and there is such a legacy from my native heritage...and I attribute so much of who I am, and the fact that I think social causes are so important to my family and my upbringing on the reservation." Sais Umemoto.
The Wapato native has been attending Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. The $20,000 Miss America scholarship award and an additional $10,000 for placing in a learning channel competition called Miss America reality check, will help her with her plans to go on to law school upon graduation. Wherever Umemoto goes and whatever she does, she is steadfast to the principles of embracing diversity and empowering women.
"The concepts of embracing diversity and empowering women are so important because I think they're so universal. Those are elements of society that everybody can benefit from." Said Umemoto.