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A Whole New World

Miss Teen Bahamas International pursues joy and passion at Washburn

Sheronika Simeon posing on campus

Sheronika Simeon won Miss Teen Bahamas in 2021 and chose to attend Washburn University and study kinesiology with the scholarship prize. Photo by Doug Stremel

From The Ichabod - Spring 2022
By Annie Flachsbarth

The first time freshmen Sheronika Simeon saw snow she was stopped in her tracks. She came to Washburn University from her home in Nassau, the Bahamas, with no winter clothing and wasn’t expecting Kansas winters to be so cold. But the excitement she had for her first snow experience took away any concerns about the temperature.

“My friend and I saw it from the window of the Living Learning Center, and at first we just stared in awe,” Simeon said. “Then we ran outside to throw snowballs and play. It was so fun!”

That joy for life and new experiences is one of the things that shines brightly about Simeon – and likely one of the many reasons she was crowned Miss Teen Bahamas International in 2021.

The Queen Life

Sheronika, or Roni as her friends call her, learned about pageants on television but wasn’t aware they existed in the Bahamas until shortly before competing in her first event in 2020. In that event, Simeon had a sponsor to help with her pageant expenses and placed second runner-up.

“Pageants are an adventure. In 2021, I worked harder and corrected the areas I needed to improve, but sponsors couldn’t help as much because of the coronavirus,” Simeon said. “I got help with a dress, but I had to use my natural hair, which I was nervous about because the other girls had extensions. It turned out the judges liked that. They told me I stood out because of how natural I looked – I wasn’t expecting that.”

After her win, Simeon went on to compete at the Miss Teen International pageant in Kingsport, Tennessee, where she placed third runner-up.

“I was sad that I didn’t win at first, but then I realized I’m the first from my country to place in the top three. I made history, and everyone back at home was happy about it,” Simeon said.

“I learned to never doubt myself and to have confidence.”

Finding Washburn

For winning Miss Teen Bahamas International, Simeon was awarded a college scholarship. After looking at many options, Simeon chose to attend Washburn and enroll in the kinesiology program with plans to become a physical therapist.

“I’ve always admired the way physical therapists come to track meets and think about bodies to help us get energized,” Simeon said. “Helping someone heal and preventing them from having to have surgery – that would bring me so much joy.”

Back in the Bahamas, Simeon has been a track star since primary school, setting record after record on the high jump throughout junior and high school. She hopes to soon be involved with Washburn’s track and field team as well.

However, sports and pageantry do not consume all of Simeon’s interests. She also dances, plays the flute, sings, writes poetry and has her own YouTube channel where she shares music she has composed and performed herself.

As a freshman, Simeon has done an excellent job of getting involved. Andrew Vogel, Washburn’s international student recruitment and retention coordinator, noted that where some international students struggle with coming into higher education in a new country due to language or cultural differences, Simeon has excelled.

“Roni hit the ground running. She started to get involved with lots of organizations on campus right away. She’s trying out for track and theater productions and the Dancing Blues. She’s taking every opportunity to get involved,” Vogel said. “She’s becoming a leader on campus very quickly and 
she’s precisely the type of student we want to have at Washburn.”

Vogel also noted that Simeon has been crucial to student recruiting efforts, and there will be seven or eight more students from the Bahamas attending Washburn in the fall of 2022. Simeon said it’s because Washburn is a school that checks all the boxes.

“I applied to various schools, but I wanted to be able to pursue all of my interests – sports, music and kinesiology,” Simeon said. “The other schools and programs weren’t able to give me all of that. It didn’t matter where it was – or how cold it gets there – I wanted to go to a school that had everything I was looking to do.”

All the World’s a Stage

Simeon is not ready to hang up her hat on pageants quite yet. She’s interested in competing in either the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants, as well as doing some modeling, in the next few years. In the meantime, she is busy as a freshman and getting involved on campus.

“Competing on the international stage was fun,” Simeon said. “I love the whole idea of getting my name out there and representing the country I love.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

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