McKensie Garber, a 2012 Hale High School graduate, was crowned Miss Missouri Saturday evening in Mexico, Mo., and will compete this fall in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. The Miss Missouri crowning came Saturday evening after a week packed full of rehearsals, community functions and judging in areas of personal interview, talent, evening gown, onstage question and swimsuit. Garber competed as Miss Gateway St. Louis and represented that title in the competition along with 25 other local titleholders. Garber, 21, is the daughter of Ron Garber, of Hale, and Denise Garber, of Chillicothe. Becoming Miss Missouri and having the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss America is a dream come true for Garber. “I couldn’t have been more honored,” she said. “It seems like a dream.” With Saturday’s crowning, Garber becomes the first person to win both Miss Missouri and Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen (2011). After serving as Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen, Garber sat out for two years and prepared for the Miss Missouri competition. This included completing her college degree in three years and graduating with honors from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. “I wanted to get through college and feel completely ready,” she said. “I wanted to maintain integrity and work toward goals that prepare me for the job of Miss America. I wanted to go to win. I didn’t want to put myself through that if I wasn’t ready for the job.” A highlight for Garber during pageant week was meeting Debby Turner, a former Miss Missouri and Miss America. She is the only woman from Missouri to win the Miss America crown. “I have looked up to her since I was a little girl,” Garber said. “Anytime you meet a Miss America it is one of the most magical things. It’s very special to me.” For the talent portion of the Miss Missouri competition, Garber performed a jazz en pointe routine to Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” Garber has studied dance for 17 years and said that a dream of hers since she was young was to perform a pointe dance on the Miss America stage. “I originally envisioned a classic pointe dance, but Miss America is very relevant and I wanted to show my personality,” Garber said. “I wanted it to be unique, out-of-the box and wanted it to be entertaining.” The costume she wore was one she had designed. It was a black and gold long-sleeved leotard with an open back and a tutu bustle skirt. For the evening gown competition, Garber wore a vintage-inspired, long-sleeve black Mac Duggal dress with black lace, a split and a train she found in Illinois. The bodice was adorned with black jewels. The swimsuit competition was on Friday and Garber won her in her group. She said that she had been working extremely hard at being as physically fit as she can be. The competition process also included an onstage question. Contestants have no prior knowledge about what they will be asked. “If you prepare for Miss America, you should be able to handle any question,” Garber said. And, Garber was prepared for her question: “When must America go to war?” Her response: “I think war is a last resort for America. I love that America is so passionate about creating harmony across the entire world; but, war is one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating, thing known to humanity. It should be a last resort after we use diplomacy and communication with other countries.” “I loved getting that question,” she explained, “because I am very passionate about world peace. I’m passionate about having peace among humanity because our world desperately needs it.” Garber was ranked No. 7 in the People’s Choice Award portion of the pageant. Earlier in the day Garber participated in a parade around Mexico along with Miss Missouri Princesses Aliyah Briner, of Chillicothe, and Harper White, the daughter of a former Miss Missouri. Garber has made numerous appearances throughout the state promoting her personal platform, “CharacterPlus – Inspiring Lives of Integrity Through Education.” Her travels included a speaking engagement at Ferguson Middle School in March and she spoke about how to live a life of integrity. Garber will also be raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the national platform for Miss America. ( Garber is the second woman from the Chillicothe area to be crowned Miss Missouri. The first was Marcia (Mossbarger) Beemer, of Laclede in 1970. Garber said she is looking forward to the Miss America Scholarship Pageant. “I have prepared for Miss America my whole life,” she said. “Every decision I have made has been intentional to become Miss America. It’s time Missouri has another Miss America.