At spirited Service High homecoming, Miss America Emma Broyles highlights platform of inclusivity

Miss America(Emma Broyles) chatting with students at Service High School.
Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles chatting with students after an assembly in her honor at Service High School, her alma mater. (Adam Nicely/Alaska Public Media)

Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles, the 100th woman to hold the title and the first from Alaska, was treated to a homecoming assembly at her hometown Anchorage high school on Tuesday.

Broyles took the opportunity to champion her Miss America platform of inclusiveness through the Special Olympics, and creating partnerships with students with disabilities.

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Music echoed off the gymnasium walls, courtesy of the Service High School jazz band, as students gathered for their first school assembly since 2019. Principal Allen Wardlaw addressed the crowd. 

“Today is a great day,” he said. “Please give it up for Miss America.”

Broyles, Service High Class of 2019 and Miss America 2022, received a boisterous welcome as she addressed the crowd. Broyles won the national contest in December.

During her run for the crown, Broyles competed on a platform of inclusivity, highlighting her work with the Special Olympics. Ahead of the school assembly, Broyles said she was happy that as Miss America, she could bring her advocacy to a national level.

“People tend to see a crown and a sash and they think, ‘Oh. She’s just a pageant girl,’” Broyles said. “But I think it’s really important to show the world that I have so much more to say.” 

Miss America (Emma Broyles) at Service High School in Anchorage, Alaska.
Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles speaks to reporters at Service High. (Adam Nicely/Alaska Public Media)

Speaking to the crowd at Service High, Broyles highlighted her high school work as co-president of Service’s Partner’s Club, an organization that pairs students with and without intellectual disabilities. She said the work was personal for her. 

“I got to see my older brother, who has Down syndrome, walk down the hallway, hand-in-hand, with a varsity football player,” Broyles said. “I think you probably wouldn’t see that at any other school. If you went down to the Lower 48 maybe. But I think about just how inclusive this community is, because of students like you and because of the work that our Partner’s Club does.” 

The Partners Club at Service is the largest in the state. Adam Ahonen — Mr. A. to his students — is a life skills teacher and the club’s sponsor. He said, like many Alaskans, he was glued to his TV screen as his former student competed in the national Miss America contest.

“Oh yeah, for sure! I watched it with my kids and my wife,” Ahonen said. “I was crying when she won, big time.”  

Miss America(Emma Broyles) speaking at a Service High School assembly.
Miss America Emma Broyles speaks at a Service High assembly. (Adam Nicely/Alaska Public Media)

Ahonen said seeing Broyles succeed was a thrill — not just because she’s a former student, but because she won while promoting inclusivity and equality. 

“I think that’s the biggest thing that we can continue to share, and seeing Emma do that on the big scale just reinforces how important it is for us to keep doing it for the youth coming up,” Ahonen said. “We’re continuing to send out the next chapter of leaders.”  

As the assembly ended, Broyles was mobbed by students, many asking for photos or to give Miss America a hug. Broyles said she was grateful for her spirited homecoming. 

“It was so great to see everybody and I’m excited to get to go walk around and see all of my old teachers after this because I haven’t seen them since I graduated, three years ago,” Broyles said. “But it was really great to see the students. I could really feel the energy in that room, and I just feel so blessed to bring the title back home to my alma mater.” 

Moving forward, Broyles will keep up her advocacy when she attends the 2022 Special Olympic Games later this June.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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