Georgia Northwestern soon-to-be grad stealing the stage at Miss Georgia, Graduation 

(Dalton, Georgia) – When 21-year-old Dala Hufstetler walks across the stage at the Dalton Convention Center tonight, she’ll have slightly more experience than her more than 250 other counterparts. Just three weeks ago, she took the stage in McDonough, Georgia as a contestant in the 2017 Miss Georgia pageant.


Hufstetler, a 2014 graduate of Georgia’s Northwest Whitfield High School, will be receiving her Cosmetology diploma from Georgia Northwestern Technical College in tonight’s ceremony. However, in the pageant arena, she was competing for the very first time at this level. Her debut performance in the Miss USA pageant circuit left shockwaves that laid the groundwork for her future. A third runner-up finish out of 69 finalists statewide has the newest addition to the runway excited.


“It’s a lot like a big family,” said Hufstetler when asked about the atmosphere at the pageant. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, like with my classmates at the college, you quickly feel a connection and try to help one another.”


As the only person in her family to venture into pageant work, Dala says this has been a learning experience. “My parents are very excited. However, we are all learning about it together,” said Hufstettler. “My mom came with me to Miss Georgia and was by my side in case there was anything I may need. Didn’t know what that may be, but she wanted to be there for me.” Her parents, Scott and Kim Hufstetler, work in administration for Shaw Industries in Dalton, Georgia.


Dala punches the clock at Retreat Salon and Spa in Dalton, Georgia. “My job is something I’m so proud of,” said Hufstetler. “And since my hours are not your usual nine-to-five hours, it allows me the opportunity to schedule training for pageant work.” Several modeling opportunities have presented themselves to Hufstettler as a result of the pageant. However, she says she’s not ready to sign her name on any dotted line yet. There’s plenty of work to do back at home. “I actually have been contacted from people wanting their hair done by me because they followed the pageant and learned that I work in Cosmetology.”


Just one year ago, Hufstetler took part in the local Northwest Georgia Regional Fair pageant in Calhoun, Georgia. Although she finished first runner-up, her pageant life was about to begin. A call from one of the judges shortly after the contest turned out to be just the first of many steps in the 2017 Miss Georgia pageant process.

“We had a dinner together in which I simply asked her why she felt I’d be good at this, at doing pageants,” said Hufstetler. “She shared with me why she felt so strong about it. And, after hearing what would be at stake, I really felt like I could do it. Because you truly have to have thick skin and be able to accept criticism to do this well. Because of my family and my faith, though, I’m very confident in who I am and know the opinions of others will never change me.”


Much of 2016 was spent training for the November pageant. “Between school, work, and preparing for Miss Georgia, my schedule was full,” said Hufstetler. “But, it was an awesome blessing. Plus, I liked that the pageant work pulled me out of my comfort zone. Being able to see where my life may take me next has been very exciting! With this pageant being my first like this, I plan on doing much better in 2017.”


The winner of Miss Georgia goes on to represent the Peach State in the Miss U.S.A. pageant the following spring. “There are two pageants coming up that my coach is going to enter me in. If I win at those, they would pay for my way to Miss Georgia next year,” said Hufstetler excitedly. The winner of Miss U.S.A. then represents the country in the Miss Universe pageant. “They want you to be strong enough and confident enough to be picked apart. It’s all about being honest with yourself and being okay with whatever those truths are.”


So many times in Hufstetler’s life, truth has been the only thing she could lean on. From the age of one, Hufstetler lived with her grandmother. “My biological parents truly had some rough times they were dealing when I was an infant,” said Hufstetler. “But, I guess things just change from time to time and I just try to live the life in front of me.”


Dala was raised by her grandmother until 2008. As her grandmother’s health began to fail, it would be extended family that would step in and make Dala one of their own. “When I was 15, my parents adopted me.” happily said Hufstetler. “That’s when I started going to Mt. Rachel Baptist Church in Dalton. As I started to get a feel of what that was like, it began to mold me into who I am.”


A three-week long mission trip to Senegal in 2011 was something that really made her begin to see what would be important in her life. “The people I got to meet and reach out to in Africa actually did more for me than I ever did for them in those few weeks,” said Hufstetler. “We prepared for several months to take the trip. But, from the moment we got there and began to share in the ways we could, it was more life-changing for me than I could’ve imagined.”


One young school-age girl named, “Nani,” left one of the biggest impressions on Hufstetler. “This little girl, living in a place where no one had much in the way of clothing or food, really connected with me,” added Hufstetler. “By the end of our trip she had learned how to say ‘I love you’ in English. She also shared a hand sign she liked with me. It meant, ‘friends’.”


By the time Dala returned to the states, her outlook on life had changed tremendously. “Going to Senegal was eye-opening for me,” said Hufstettler. “But, honestly, I felt more of a culture shock when I returned from being in Africa. Just walking through the first U.S. airport, for example. Seeing the countless restaurants and stores just in our wing of the airport was true culture shock.”


And now, just a few years later, that compassion and life experience has Hufstetler beginning a career in Cosmetology and pursuing a new dream of winning Miss Georgia 2018 and beyond. “Dala is just a good kind soul, she really is,” said Georgia Northwestern Technical College Cosmetology Director Tammy Livingstone. “She was very talented in our program and had a ton of drive. A big part of what we do is learning to relate to the needs of people. Well, obviously she has that down already.”


Beyond her sisters on the pageant circuit and the cosmetology field, Dala has one older brother, Cody, who currently attends the University of Georgia at Athens, and two younger twin sisters, Taylor and Tori, who are attending Dalton State College.

For more information on Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Cosmetology program, you can call 866-983-4682. For information online, visit the college at GNTC.edu, as well as on GNTC’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and an equal opportunity institute.

Since 1962, Georgia Northwestern Technical College has provided degrees, diplomas, and certificates in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 13,734 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,876 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,858 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.