EDISON — Like many second-year students at Rutgers University, Chavvi Verg has big dreams for her future.

The 20-year-old Edison resident, who is considering a career in either marketing or business, has one thing none of her other classmates can claim — the title of Miss New Jersey USA.

In October of last year, Verg became the first South Asian to wear the tiara. Beating out 85 other women from around the state in just her second pageant has special meaning for the JP Stevens grad.

"For me, winning Miss New Jersey is so important," she said. "It's a chance to break stereotypes against South Asians."

Verg said it is also a chance for her to help "represent what it means to be an American."

"It's no longer a caucasian with blonde hair and blue eyes, or brown hair, or being of African American descent. There's a huge population that people don't typically associate as being American." Verg called the potential of being the first Indian Miss USA, "such an incredible thing to achieve."

The Miss New Jersey USA pageant is part of the Miss Universe Organization pageant series. The organization was owned until recently by Donald Trump.

Verg and her family came to America when she was 4 years old — she said she's glad to have grown up in this country. Going from Edison to New Brunswick has also been good, she said, as she has met people from all over who each bring their own perspectives to the school.

Whether she wins the next stage of the pageant and eventually advances to the worldwide competition, Verg said, she has definite goals to accomplish during her time as Miss New Jersey.

"My biggest thing that I would like to accomplish is promoting women empowerment in as many ways as I can," she said. "I feel that at the core, women's empowerment is all dependent on education. If women in a country are educated then an entire country prospers."

To help in that effort Verg has started a campaign on Instagram using the hashtag #wonderwomanwednesday, which she said is geared toward "women who overcome some form of adversity or obstacle to become successful." By seeing other women succeed, she said, she hopes she and others will find the motivation to pursue their own goals as well.

Verg said her family's support has helped her achieve her goals, including her pageant title.

"They're very proud that I'm doing this and doing something different," she said. "The expectation is that you want a stable career." Whether that is something in the medical field, business, science or finance, Verg said, she is glad to have found a way to stay in that area while also exploring her own passions.

While being Miss New Jersey brings its own responsibilities, Verg said t she was able to have a good amount of anonymity at school, especially at first.

"I don't know if everyone knows," she said. With the pageant happening around midterms, many of her fellow students were focused on tests rather than pageants. "My close friends knew, and my close friends' friends knew. Nobody really approached me while I was walking around, but I had a sense that people knew."

That, she said, all changed after the winter break.

With her focus on her school work and preparing for Miss USA, Verg said she is hopeful to help more people when her education and pageant days are behind her.

"I"m just taking it one day at a time," she said. "I feel like this opportunity to represent New Jersey at Miss USA and hopefully represent Miss Universe, I know it's going to open more doors for me."

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