PVHS student and pageant winner making strides in community


Amelia McDonough, a freshman at Ponte Vedra High School, is no stranger to the Florida pageant community. As a child she was a Sunshine Princess, where she earned the Miracle Maker Award, and in 2010 she was the Sunshine Princess of the year.

McDonough became eligible for the Miss Outstanding Teen crown at the age of 13 but waited until she was 14 to enter. In February of 2020 she was awarded the Miss Florida Gator’s Outstanding Teen title for her hard work and dedication to the community. Due to the pandemic, McDonough was allowed to keep the title for an additional year, which she said provided her with even more opportunities for community work and connection.

“It is a really big responsibility,” she said. “I have to have my full attention on it at all times.”

But the teen does not seem to have a problem juggling all her commitments at once. Her social initiative platform, A New Leash On Life, has been one of her main focuses and greatest passions over the last few years.

The platform was created after her older brother suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, which hindered his ability to deal with aggression and anger. McDonough’s parents gave her brother a kitten, which they named Millie, to help he deal with his injury, and this inspired McDonough to create her platform for animal assisted healing.

“I was really able to see animal assisted healing firsthand,” she said.

Stemming from her interest in animal assisted healing, McDonough became an ambassador for local non-profit organization K9s For Warriors, where she goes to events and spreads awareness through her platform and through social media. She also volunteers with Canine Companions, another organization that specializes in providing animal healing for people with disabilities. One day she said she hopes to continue volunteering with both organizations and perhaps find national-based ones, as well.

Besides working closely with animal assisted healing programs, McDonough is an ambassador for the REAL TALK program, which brings awareness to substance abuse in teens. Recently she was recognized as Top 25 under 25 for Savvy Girl Magazine for her volunteer work in the community.

This summer McDonough will compete in another competition where she hopes to bring home the title of Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen in the Miss America Outstanding Teen program. In the future, McDonough said she would like to pursue a career in the medical field as a surgeon and complete med-school at the University of Florida.

“I do see myself continuing with a New Leash On Life and promoting animal assisted healing because, to me, it is more than just a social initiative – it is really [something] important in everyday life.”

To learn more about what Amelia McDonough has been up to, and the volunteerism she has completed in the community, visit her website at ameliagracemcdonough.com