The new Miss Florida is a University of Central Florida student who plans to make charity work with sick children the centerpiece of her campaign for the Miss America crown.

Jaclyn “Jackie” Raulerson, a 19-year-old native of Plant City, had been Miss Largo before her crowning Saturday night in St. Petersburg.

“It is such an honor to be able to represent my home state. I absolutely love living here, and the [Miss Florida] organization has provided me with many opportunities in the form of scholarships and support,” Raulerson said Sunday. “It’s just a blessing to be the one selected.”

UCF alumna Ericka Dunlap, a former Miss America from Orlando, co-hosted the event at the Mahaffey Theater. The outgoing Miss Florida, Rachael Todd of Oviedo, also was a UCF student when she was crowned.

Raulerson, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, said she will be taking time off from her studies to prepare for the national pageant, scheduled for January in Las Vegas.

The new Miss Florida said she will use her prominence to be “a goodwill ambassador” for the Miss Florida organization and to highlight the work of the Children’s Miracle Network, a non-profit that raises funds for children’s hospitals.

“This is for children who are in desperate need of care and most of the time can’t afford it,” she said.

Raulerson describes herself as a ninth-generation Floridian with deep roots in the state. Her father, Dan Raulerson, is the mayor of Plant City.

At UCF, she has been an officer of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She also is a member of Forever Knights, Catholic Knights, Radio-Television News Directors Association and was recently accepted into the National Honor Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Her online biography states that she “loves to sing, Zumba, snow ski, swim, watch movies, and spend time with family and friends.”

Raulerson started as a teen contestant in 2003 and finished among the top 15 in the Miss Florida competition last year. She said her relatives and friends from school and her hometown had supported her pursuit of the crown, and were still congratulating her on her success.

“I had never had so many text messages in my entire life,” Raulerson said. “It’s very touching.”

Raulerson’s selection also won praise from her school.

“The success of many UCF students and alumni in pageants is a testament to their hard work, intelligence and passion for important causes such as ending homelessness, helping children with life-threatening diseases and celebrating diversity,” said Chad Binette, a UCF spokesman. “We applaud all of our outstanding contestants.”

Raulerson was one of two state pageant winners chosen during the weekend.

The other, Miss Florida USA, is Lissette Garcia, 24, of Miami. She was crowned in South Florida and will represent the state at the Miss USA Pageant early next year. Garcia said she hopes to be a cardiologist.

Source:, UCF student Jaclyn Raulerson crowned Miss Florida, Orlando Sentinel, 8:36 PM EDT, July 11, 2010