Oksana Tymkiv

Balancing Textbooks and Tiaras

by Amy Gallo

Her first day of college will always be a day to remember for Oksana Tymkiv ’16, but not for the reason you would expect. While her fellow freshmen were relaxing in their dorm rooms, Tymkiv was onstage at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Rochester, being crowned National American Miss New York Teen.

Tymkiv believes pageants are much more than a crowning moment. “I really want to explain how wonderful pageantry is—how much it celebrates women,” she says. “I’ve gained so many valuable skills—poise, confidence, professionalism—that will help me all throughout life.”

To Tymkiv, National American Miss New York Teen is also an extension of her love of community service—it provides her with another way to give back. Her goal is to use her title to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. From attending fundraising walks and other events to sharing information through her social media profiles, Tymkiv has a true passion for lifting others’ spirits. “It’s nice to go to bed at night and know that you contributed something good to the world that day.”

Tymkiv’s infectious optimism has also helped her to overcome her own intimidating obstacles. Born in Ukraine, Tymkiv and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 10, after her father’s job was transferred. “I went to public school and didn’t know a word of English!” she laughs. “Learning a new language was a really great experience that taught me you can overcome anything.”

Now, with no detectable accent, Tymkiv recalls that her language immersion was probably the beginning of her pageant career. “When I went to that first open call and saw the qualities of the reigning queens—how confident and well-spoken they were—I knew I didn’t have those qualities,” she says. “I never went in wanting to win—I just wanted to become better-spoken and learn new things.”

And it doesn’t stop at pageants. As a junior in high school, Tymkiv began her career as a sales representative for Amway Global, one of the world’s largest direct selling businesses; the position also helped her decide to become an international business and marketing major at Nazareth.

During Thanksgiving week, Tymkiv took the stage again to compete for the National American Miss Teen title in Anaheim, Calif. Although she didn’t place, her signature optimism made the experience anything but negative. “Not everything in life will turn out exactly the way you wish, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up,” she says. “I’m still dreaming of capturing that Miss Universe title one day! Once you set a goal to win something like that, it feels that no matter what goals you choose in life—if you work hard—you can be anything you want to be.”

Amy Gallo ’13 is a sociology major at Nazareth.