Jessica Krueger’s eyes are on the crown.

The soon-to-be Ottawa High School sophomore, 15, said competing in pageants has given her the boost of confidence she never had in middle school.

“One thing is definitely that most people think that it’s just about modeling pretty dresses and looking good on stage, but it’s more about presenting your interview skills, meeting new people, gaining confidence in yourself, and just turning yourself into an outgoing person and being a good person in society.”

Krueger named her pageant platform “Skin Deep.”

“I wasn’t always the most confident in myself, my looks and how my body looked, and I decided I didn’t want other girls and boys to feel that way, so I went to go around to sixth grade classrooms and teach them how to love your body, and why you should love your body,” she said.

Last fall, Krueger competed in her first pageant for the Kansas USA National Miss title.

“I was only going up against three girls, and I didn’t win, but I met a lot of new girls, and the experience was so much fun,” Krueger said. “Wearing the dress and being on the stage and interviewing, it was just really fun for me. It short of just clicked with me, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is something I want to do. I want to keep competing until I win.’”

After that, she went for the title of International Junior Miss Sunflower State Jr. Teen in March. This time, she won.

Then, she went on to the international IJM competition in Nashville, Tennesse, several weeks ago.

“I didn’t win that one, but I decided I really wanted a crown, so I’m going to keep going,” she said.

So, she’s trying National Miss competition again. In November, she’ll be competing for USA National Miss Kansas Jr. Teen.

The high school student got hooked on pageants by chance, she said. Her mother, Donna Krueger, was planning attending a fashion show Younique Makeup vendor. The show didn’t need more vendors, but they did need more models, so she suggested Krueger and her sister, Emily, a soon-to-be senior at OHS. That was about two years ago. Pageantry followed the modeling start.

“We didn’t mean to get into it, but I’m happy I did,” Krueger said.

Furthering her education is at the top of Krueger’s priority list, with a goal of attending Stanford University in California and studying in the medical field. With scholarship money as an incentive, pageants can help her get there.

“I would just like to thank all the people that have helped me on my way,” Krueger said. “There have been so many people. I’ve been to the businesses up and down Main Street and a couple of our family friends, and I think that’s one of the nicest things about pageantry is that everyone’s on your side, and they want to help get you where you want to go.”