Camille Schrier, the reigning Miss Virginia 2019, told hundreds of sixth graders Monday that science is fun, relevant and easy to understand, and she encouraged the youngsters to study hard for the many career choices they will have in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The youngsters spent the day at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise doing a variety of science experiments as part of the fourth annual Girls’ Day in STEM event in the David J. Prior Convocation Center. The girls, who were joined by sixth grade boys this year, were encouraged to kindle their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The event featured dozens of labs, displays, and experiments to encourage the youngsters to consider careers in STEM fields.

Schrier, a graduate of Virginia Tech with degrees in biochemistry and systems biology, was the key speaker. Schrier, who is the 2019 Miss Virginia, will compete later in the year in the Miss America pageant. Schrier is also pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Her talent, which drew worldwide media coverage during the Miss Virginia contest, was to conducted a chemistry experiment. She will spend her tenure as Miss Virginia touring the state as an advocate for STEM education and a variety of other causes.

Schrier, who has been interested in science since she was a small child, said her family kitchen was her first laboratory. She was learning biology, chemistry, and was studying up on what would turn into her love for science. She was in pageants as a youngster, but decided it was time to devote her time to science. When the Miss America pageant went through significant changes to become less of a beauty contest, she decided to enter the Miss Virginia pageant. She wowed the crowd with a science experiment as her talent, and the rest has been a dream.

“It’s time to broaden the definition of talent,” she explained. “Science is a talent.”

After a full media tour on a variety of television shows and interviews with international news organizations, Schrier is enjoying her time as Miss Virginia, and she continues to spread the good work about STEM education.

“I am not a beauty queen,” she told the youngsters. “I am a pharmacy student. I am a graduate student. I am a woman of science.”

Women in STEM fields are closing the wage gap, and she told the youngsters that there are no limits to what they can do with a STEM education.

“I will go where there is no path and leave a trail,” she added.

The event, sponsored by American Electric Power, allowed the middle school students to learn about health care, forensic science, environmental science and other topics.