Winchester native says she owes it all to her Adams County and family roots –
By Patricia Beech –
Even though she is a remarkably beautiful woman, the most striking thing about Dinaleigh Baxter isn’t her flawless good looks, nor is it her sharp intellect, or her polished communication skills, or her warmth and charm. The quality that best defines the 2010 North Adams graduate is her total devotion and appreciation of her Adams County roots. The winner of the 2017 Miss Ohio USA pageant, Baxter credits her success to her upbringing in a close-knit community.
“Being from Adams County means you don’t have just one set of parents, you have a whole village of parents,” she says. “Everything I’ve ever learned I learned from the people here in Adams County – they have made me the strong, confident woman I am. I don’t think I would be the same person without Adams County.”
The 2017 pageant was Baxter’s third attempt to win the coveted crown. She says she made a decision to use a more honest approach in this year’s competition.
“Before I did what I thought the judges wanted me to do, and I said what I thought they wanted me to say, but this year I decided to be myself. I wore my hair straight and used very little makeup, and was just very much myself,” she says. “I told them I came from a small farming community in Adams County, Ohio, and that I went to a high school that had only 86 students in my graduating class. I told them I was just a very average, normal girl with big dreams, and luckily, being myself paid off and I won this year.”
Winning the title means that Baxter is now eligible to compete in the Miss USA pageant, and if she should win, she will be eligible to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant.
It is no small achievement for the 23 year-old Northern Kentucky University senior who has her own computer app business, Sonic LLC, based in Austin, Texas.
“I got my work ethic from my Dad,” she says. “He has worked hard every day of his life to give my Mom, my sister, and me a great life.”
Baxter returned to Adams County this week to share her story and her life philosophy with Junior High students at North Adams High School.
“My whole platform is about believing in yourself, and not letting outside factors determine who and what you’re going to be,” she says. “I let those students know that it doesn’t matter that Adams County has a lot of poverty, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of money, or that your parents might be in jail or on drugs. Those situations don’t define you – you can be anything you want to be.”
In her address to the students, Baxter openly shared the story of her own family’s struggle with poverty.
“My parents, Randy and Jennifer Baxter, were still in high school when I was born, so I was on welfare for the first six years of my life,” she said. “My Dad learned a trade and became a welder, and he put my mother through school and she became a nurse. I went through every single struggle with them when I was growing up. They bettered their lives and they showed me that through hard work and determination you can achieve your dreams.”
While Baxter is obligated to carry out certain duties as Miss Ohio USA, she is most excited about the charity work she does in partnership with Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, benefiting children born with birth defects.
“I started a charity called Sisters and Brother Helping Others,” she says. “My parents, my sister Karlie, and I create Courage Bears that have matching headbands and bows and we give them to the children before their surgery so they can put all their feelings of fear into the bears and get the courage they need for the process in return.”
Courage and determination are qualities Baxter seems to have in abundance.
“It’s not where you come from that determines who you are, or the struggles you’re put through, it’s how you handle them,” she says, “If you’re willing to work through them, that determines who you are.”
Having achieved her childhood dream of winning a Miss USA pageant, Baxter says she looks forward to what the future holds.
“This year will be such an amazing experience. I feel like I’m going to have to pinch myself every day to know I’m not dreaming.”