Alma Jam is a graduate student at ISU currently pursuing a master’s degree in sociology. She says that she did not choose ISU, but rather, ISU chose her.
“It made it easier for me to get the connections I needed and the financial support I needed to be where I am today,” Jam said.
Jam and her family immigrated from Cameroon, Africa, when she was just 10 years old so her father could finish his degree at ISU.
While there are many differences between Idaho and Cameroon, the weather sticks out the most.
“The weather was always perfect,” Jam said.
Another thing Jam misses is the food. “I miss some of the dishes because some of the ingredients are hard to come by in the United States,” Jam said. “So we have to be creative about how we make some of those dishes.”
But most of all, Jam misses her family. While she came to America with her immediate family, she says that she misses her grandparents and all of her aunts and uncles that she left behind in Cameroon.
However, Jam has managed to bring much of the culture of Africa to Idaho with her title of Miss Africa Idaho. Jam won the title of Miss Africa Idaho 2015 after competing in the pageant in September of 2015.
Miss Africa Idaho is a pageant founded by the GK Folks Foundation, a non-profit organization in Utah and Idaho that focuses on “providing educational and entrepreneurial resource opportunities for African students in the diaspora,” according to its website.
The organization began the Idaho African Scholarship Fund initiative (IASF) as a way to enable African students to get a good education and be able to give back to their country. The Miss Africa Idaho Cultural Scholarship Program is one way that female African students can win a scholarship from the IASF.
Jam said she was initially skeptical about participating in the pageant.
“The first year they held the pageant, in 2014, I heard about it from my sisters, and they came straight to me and said ‘you would be perfect for this you should do it,’” Jam said. “But I was just so busy that year, and it was not my personality at all to do a pageant.”
Despite her reluctance to compete, Jam was encouraged by Miss Africa Idaho 2014 to compete in the pageant for 2015. “I thought I would just try and see where it takes me,” Jam said.
According to Jam, it took her far.
“You have no idea how many community connections came from this,” Jam said. “I’ve met so many great people.”
The pageant also gave Jam a platform to promote awareness of an issue she has been passionate about for a long time: human trafficking.
“We had to all create a platform that we wanted to promote to do the pageant, and I chose human trafficking,” Jam said. “And I’m able now to promote this throughout the community and bring awareness to it and raise money.”
In April, Jam is holding an art auction fundraiser to both expose talented artists to the community and raise money for human trafficking survivors.
Jam’s other duties as Miss Africa Idaho include going to as many community events as possible and sharing her culture.
“It’s mostly just getting to know the community, as well as having them know about me,” Jam said.
She will also be competing for the national title of Miss Africa USA in July.
According to Jam, being Miss Africa Idaho has changed her immensely.
“I’ve always been involved, but I was always in the background,” she said. “This pageant, however, has put me on the forefront. I have to speak, whether I like it or not. I have to be out there in front and take leadership roles.”