Jacqueline Boehme is used to wearing many hats.
She’s an honors student and a dedicated researcher at the University of Central Florida. She loves to write, paint and sing opera. And she’s “Miss UCF,” the university’s own beauty queen.
On Saturday, Boehme will trade her Miss UCF crown for a graduation cap when she receives her bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Microbiology. She will graduate during the last of four commencement ceremonies this week at the UCF Arena.
Boehme will spend another year in Orlando fulfilling her Miss UCF duties while also studying HIV as a research analyst for one of UCF’s clinics. Next fall, she’ll head to one of the prestigious medical schools that have accepted her—Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt or Mayo, among others.
She eventually hopes to work in pediatrics, either as a neurosurgeon or cardiologist. She also wants to travel abroad for medical mission work and would one day like to open her own clinic.
“Giving back is important to me, and I know I can do that as a doctor,” she said. “My family came here as immigrants, and we had so many people helping us along the way. I want to be able to help others.”
A native of the Dominican Republic, Boehme immigrated to the United States with her parents and two brothers at age 2. Her family settled in Central Florida, and she graduated from Winter Springs High School.
She was a National Hispanic Scholar, and she was named a Gates Millennium Scholar by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation awards the honor annually to 1,000 promising new minority college students.
Although she considered prestigious undergraduate programs across the country, Boehme didn’t have to search far for the perfect fit. She chose UCF because it had everything she was looking for, and she was confident she’d receive a first-class education.
Boehme took advantage of UCF’s many opportunities, studying stem cells and bacterial toxins at campus research labs. She traveled to Saint Kitts and Nevis through the Honors College’s President’s Scholars Program, a trip that laid the groundwork for her future career goals and exposed her to the Miss UCF pageant.
While there, she learned about environmentalism and the development of small nations, and she volunteered at orphanages and nursing homes. Her travel companions, veterans of the pageant scene, convinced her that she had the brains, beauty and talent to become Miss UCF. Boehme gave the competition a shot the following spring.
Though she placed second runner-up, she remained active at UCF, volunteering, leading campus organizations and mentoring younger science students. She also enrolled in an opera course at UCF to prepare for the next pageant.
Her hard work paid off when she was awarded the title in February. That month she was also inducted into Order of Pegasus, UCF’s highest student honor.
“Jacqueline is a young woman with many distinguished qualities and well-rounded interests. And if there’s an award out there, she’s won it,” said Alvin Wang, dean of the Burnett Honors College. “I always joke with her that she must have an evil twin running around helping her accomplish everything. She’s smart, talented and determined.”
As Miss UCF, Boehme will share her platform with others during activities at the university and in the community. She is striving to motivate students of all ages with her message that college and success are attainable.
Boehme is preparing to compete in July’s Miss Florida competition. Should she win the state title, she’ll go on to compete in the Miss America pageant.
While she is excited about sporting her Miss UCF sash for another year, Boehme says her crowning achievement will be the opportunity learn and grow as a doctor.
“I’m looking forward to working in a field that is continuing to evolve,” said Boehme. “I want to be a lifelong learner, and I know I’ll be able to do that throughout my career.”