By Samantha Georgson
Recently crowned Miss Black USA, Madison’s own TeKema Balentine returns home on a mission to serve as an accessible role model for young girls in her community, particularly girls of color.
In her hunt for a scholarship for this year’s fall semester, Balentine stumbled across the Miss Black USA pageant and entered on a whim. She made the trip out to Washington D.C. and returned home, not only with the crown, but with a new sense of responsibility.
“I want to help girls explore Wisconsin and know what it means to be a Wisconsinite and what it means to have brown skin.
Balentine reflects on her own Madison upbringing, specifically how challenging it was growing up as a low-income student in the area, attending several different elementary schools and even living out a portion of her childhood homeless in the city before graduating from East High School and heading off to college to pursue nursing.
“I’m looking into starting a nonprofit organization. I want it to be some sort of girls group, because when I was younger I had a mentor,” Balentine says. “She took five of us around Wisconsin and we did things I would never have had the opportunity to do as a low-income child. I want to start this group so that I can take girls out and build them up, the same way my mentor did for me.”
Balentine also has plans to donate her pageant dresses to the girls at East High School, her alma mater, where she currently coaches track and field. She is challenging the young women of East to write a two-paragraph essay on unity in their community, specifically how they have helped to unify their communities at home or at school.
Winners from each grade will be selected based on the strongest essays, and each student will have the opportunity to wear one of Balentine’s dresses to this year’s homecoming dance. “I’m also collecting dresses from around the community so that we don’t have to worry about sizing,” says Balentine. “I want everybody to be able to participate.”
Balentine hopes to grow her influence and serve as a role model to young girls everywhere. She plans to continue her volunteer work with the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health as well as PATCH (Providers and Teens Communicating for Health), a program that works to ensure that teens are able to receive high-quality, youth-friendly healthcare services.
With four semesters to go, Balentine is incredibly excited for the future and looks forward to beginning her career as a nurse practitioner post-college. While she plans on making Madison her permanent address, Balentine is also hoping to follow in her partner’s footsteps and go into traveling nursing for a few years after graduation.