Eric Swanson Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Marian Kretzschmar was watching the Miss America broadcast Sunday when a picture of Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, flashed across the screen.
The Ada woman recognized Davuluri’s name because Kretzschmar’s daughter, Amanda Schultz, was friends with Davuluri when the two girls were in elementary school. Kretzschmar started flipping through Homer Elementary School yearbooks to find Davuluri’s photo.
When Kretzschmar found the photo she wanted, she called her Schultz and told her to tune into the pageant.
“She just thought it was really cool,” Kretzschmar said in a phone interview Tuesday.
She said she also saw footage of Davuluri’s father, Dr. Chad Davuluri, who was an obstetrician at Carl Albert Indian Hospital in Ada. The facility is now the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.
Davuluri, who won the 2014 Miss America crown on Sunday, lived in Ada in the mid- to late 1990s and attended kindergarten through third grades at Homer Elementary School.
Mary Hatcher, a third-grade teacher at Homer, said Nina and her sister, Meena, were both in Hatcher’s class. Hatcher said Nina was a quiet girl who cared about education and earning good grades.
“I wouldn’t say she was shy, but she wasn’t one who would try to take the limelight,” Hatcher said.
She said other teachers remembered that Nina and her sister had performed a routine during the school talent show that resembled Nina’s performance for the Miss America pageant.
Hatcher said she caught the last 20 minutes of the pageant on Sunday and saw Nina claim the top prize. At the time, she was surprised to realize that her former student was the new Miss America.
Homer Elementary was not in session on Monday, but when the students returned to class on Tuesday, Hatcher showed them one of Nina’s old photos. Then she showed them a photo of Nina as Miss America.
“They were pretty astonished,” Hatcher said. “It was a challenge that you can reach your dreams.”
After leaving Ada, the Davuluris moved to Michigan and then to New York. Davuluri graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science.
A resident of Fayetteville, N.Y., the 24-year-old Davuluri won the Miss New York title before going on to claim the Miss America crown. She is the first contestant of Indian heritage to capture the Miss America title.
Her pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency,” and she showcased her talent on Sunday with a Bollywood fusion dance.
“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said in her first press conference after winning the crown after winning the crown, according to the Associated Press. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”
She wants to be a doctor and is applying to medical school with the help of a $50,000 scholarship she won along with the title, according to the AP.
Davuluri is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown. She succeeds Mallory Hagan, who was chosen in January when the pageant was still held in Las Vegas.
The Miss America Organization will compensate Hagan for her shorter-than-usual reign.