For Anita Cerpovicz, life began in her native Poland with no family but her siblings. All grown up now and a college student, she thought she wanted to be a veterinarian. She also thought she’d never be in a beauty pageant.
But things change — and very often, for the better.
A rising senior at East Georgia State College, Cerpovicz is the reigning Miss EGSC, having been crowned earlier this year at the Luck F. Gambrell Center Auditorium on the Swainsboro campus. She lives in Statesboro with her parents, Paul Cerpovicz, who teaches at EGSC’s Swainsboro campus, and Joelle Romanchik-Cerpovicz, who teaches at Georgia Southern. Together with her siblings, who are now 19 (sister) and 16 (brother), the family has called Statesboro home since the children were adopted, when Anita Cerpovicz was 4 years old.
Cerpovicz says that choosing East Georgia for her college education was a no-brainer for her.
“I love East Georgia. My dad has taught there, so I’ve been on campus since I was like, 4 years old. All the teachers know me. It’s like a second home to me,” she said.
Cerpovicz says her high school classmates questioned her decision, saying that she should consider a larger school. But she held firm.
“They said, ‘Why are you going to such a small school? You’re way too smart for that,’” she recalls them saying, adding that the education she and other students receive at EGSC is cost effective and “the same quality education as a much larger school.”
“You don’t have to go to this big, giant university, and pay all this crazy tuition to get the exact same education, if not better, at a small campus,” she said.
She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology, having originally thought she wanted to be a veterinarian. But after her first year of study, she found that her temperament just wasn’t suited for that field. She decided instead to pursue a career as a math teacher, so she plans to go on to obtain her master’s degree in mathematics. She wants to teach high school or college students.
“I have always loved math, ever since I was little. I was always really good at math; it always made sense to me. It was something I could relate to, I guess, because you could always use it,” she said.
Cerpovicz is attending EGSC on a full scholarship, and as part of that, she is required to give back through community service. She has tutored elementary school students since high school, and continues to do so today. Although she enjoys her time with them, she says it has solidified for her that her teaching career will be spent teaching older students.
“It’s a bit outside of my comfort zone,” she says of teaching younger children.
But even so, she says she has enjoyed seeing the light bulb com on for students when they “get it,” and she feels that the experiences she’s had doing so have made her a more well-rounded person. She also points out the importance of helping younger children gain the foundational skills they need in mathematics to succeed later on in their education and in life.
This is why Cerpovicz, as Miss EGSC, chose education as her platform. “Running into Mathematics” is what she calls her presentation for elementary students, which incorporates math and exercise, and teaches how the two fit together.
“I love working out, and I’m very athletic. I did a lot of sports in high school. I wanted to share that passion with others. I also wanted to show younger kids that math is important and that it’s something that they shouldn’t just blow off because they don’t understand it now,” she said. “Because if they don’t get that foundation, when they’re young like that, by the time they get to high school and college, they won’t be able to learn.”
Cerpovicz recently returned to her alma mater, Trinity Christian School, to present her program to third, fourth and fifth grade students. She helped them to understand how math and exercise work together, and followed up with games that helped the students put into play what they learned. She plans to visit other schools in Bulloch and Emanuel counties as well.
Cerpovicz laughs when asked about entering the Miss EGSC pageant. She says her sister, who is a rising sophomore, saw that there was a meeting about the pageant, and encouraged her, saying they could attend the meeting together. Cerpovicz initially thought it was a no-go, as she had a fear of public speaking and suffered from stage fright.
“I skimmed the information and thought, ‘That’s not for me,’” she said, laughing. But in the end, she determined to go, even though her sister backed out. Cerpovicz says with a laugh that it was her first — and likely last — pageant.
Originally, there was to be a talent portion, and even though she had Googled what she could do as a talent, she was relieved to find that for this year, that part of the pageant would not be included. She would, however, have to be interviewed by the judges. She says she was fine with that.
Of the pageant, Cerpovicz says “it was definitely an educational experience.”
“It’s definitely opened up a lot more doors for me, because I’m not as nervous anymore. I don’t mind being in front of people anymore,” she said.
Being Miss EGSC has taught her a lot about herself, she adds.
“It taught me that you shouldn’t be as scared or nervous about a lot of things. It really taught me to overcome my fears,” she said.
On April 10, Cerpovicz was crowned Miss EGSC, with Grace Gardner coming in as first runner-up, and Diana Hernandez winning second place. Cerpovicz was also awarded the Interview and Community Star awards.
She says she hopes that as she represents her school, including the campuses in Swainsboro, Statesboro and Augusta, she hopes that people will see that “you can do anything you set your mind to.”
“I practiced, I persevered, and here I am,” she said, smiling.
Cerpovicz hopes that teaching will further help to build her self-confidence, and she hopes to pass on the lessons she’s learned to her students.
“I want to be the kind of teacher that when they look back 20 years later, they remember me, like, ‘I am this way because she taught me this,’ or ‘Because she helped me through this.’ I don’t want to be that teacher that, if students are struggling, they just kind of get pushed on the back burner, and focus on the ones that are doing well,” she said. “I want to be able to help those that fall between the cracks, that might fall through the system and don’t get the help that they need. I want to be the one that makes a difference, and really helps those that are struggling.”