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Pair of COHPA Knights Strive for Miss America Crown

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By Jenna Marina

And the winner of this year's Miss America competition is … hopefully a Knight.

This Sunday's 96th installment of the annual pageant features two UCF alumnae.

Miss Florida Courtney Sexton, '15, and Miss Missouri Erin O'Flaherty, '15, are vying to become the latest Knight to claim the title of Miss America. Ericka Dunlap, '05, was awarded the crown in 2004 and served on the UCF Alumni Board of Directors from June 2013 until mid-July 2016.

The competition will air live Sept. 11 from Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall at 9 p.m. on ABC.

O'Flaherty has made headlines nationwide via CNN, Good Morning America, the Huffington Post and People and Cosmopolitan magazines as the first openly gay Miss America contestant in the pageant's nearly century-long history.

The 23-year-old legal studies alumna owns and operates Rachel's Grove Boutique in Chesterfield, Missouri. A former Miss UCF, her pageant platform has always been suicide prevention, a topic of concern to her because she had a friend in high school who committed suicide. She opened up about the loss of her friend Joseph when she was a columnist for the UCF Forum opinion series in 2013.

Sexton, 23, from Starke, received an $18,000 scholarship for claiming the title of Miss Florida in early July. Sexton earned her bachelor's degree in health services administration in May 2015 and is pursuing a master's degree in health services administration.

Sexton's platform is Get up! Get moving! Volunteer!, which she describes as connecting others through a cause or organization they are passionate about.

According to MissAmerica.org, contestants contribute tens of thousands of community service hours annually and have raised more than $14 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and Miss America scholarships since 2007.

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