She was crowned Miss South Dakota in June, 2015, and now Autumn Simunek of Hot Springs, South Dakota will be competing for the crown and title of 2016 Miss America on Sunday, September 13, 2015. Ladies from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will all be competing and hoping to take the crown from Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev.

Knowing the competition will be tough for the title of Miss America, Simunek brings pageant experience with her to the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

When she was just a Senior in high school, Simunek realized her dream of being Miss South Dakota and began competing for the crown. The first year she competed for the title, she was the fourth runner-up. For the next three years in a row, she made it to second runner-up. Her dream finally came true in June, 2015, when she was crowned Miss South Dakota - one step closer to Miss America.

A 22-year old from Hot Springs, South Dakota, Simunek attended the University of South Dakota for four years and graduated with a degree in vocal music education. Simunek says that she loves traveling and representing the state of South Dakota and considers the evening gown portion of the competition to be the easiest, admitting to practicing her walk in her mother's high-heels as a little girl. No surprise, Simunek says the swimsuit competition is the most difficult but is proud of how she looks on stage.

Her platform is 'Five Stars For Serving Those Who Served', a program aimed at connecting veterans, military members and their families and homeless veterans with their communities. Starting this campaign when she was only 14-years old, Simunek feels she has always had a connection to those that have served our country. She also partnered with the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary to start a program that has raised $45,000 for military members.

Simunek encourages people to follow her journey as Miss South Dakota through her Facebook page at Autumn Simunek Miss South Dakota 2015 and watch her compete for the crown and title of 2016 Miss America LIVE on ABC.

Source: Rapid City Journal and Argus Leader