She says the title gave her a voice that people wanted to listen to. “It’s allowed me to go into schools and use my voice and the children take notice and listen.”
Smith has visited many schools around the country over the past year and her message was loud and clear.
“My message is to do with the environment. We have the huge potential to be a model for the rest of the world. And I’d like to be a part of that, creating change for the better, moving forward as a nation.
“Rarotonga is already off to a great start and we are leaders in that sense, but no change will come if our neighbours are not on board with us. So we need collaboration.”
During her school visits she has spoken about basic environmental benefits such as composting waste management, “creating compost for your waste that can be used again and is beneficial to the environment, as opposed to just burning your waste.” And the problems involved with single-use plastic.
“I talked about things like using alternatives, how we can reduce plastic or even looking at whether we even need it. That has become my main message, really.”
She says of the schools she visited, Rakahanga and Manihiki schools really stood out.
“They really appreciated that whole Miss Cook Islands theme and they treated me like a queen. I’ll always remember that.”
Looking to her future, Alana wants to continue her conservation message, approaching it at an even higher level.
“I would like to get into politics, and to help form a youth party at some stage. There is a great potential for young candidates. Many young people have a great vision and have great minds, and there are many of us who have a passion in this area. We need that, it is our future, the future belongs to us, our generation.
“It would be great to one day be prime minister, but there are just as many other young women out there capable of achieving such a goal, and I would wholeheartedly support any of them.”
Looking back at the highlights the Miss Cook Islands title brought her, Alanna says attending the Miss World competition in China is high on the list.
“I honestly never thought I would have ever done such a thing in my whole life. Also meeting all the girls from around the world and seeing their different cultures, and just the whole pageant thing. I loved it.”
She says the competition made her feel more grounded and sure of herself, and her future.
“I know that I want to pursue a career in bio-conservation and also get a master’s degree in this area.”
A descendant of the Matenga family, originally from Atiu, and of the Ngati Raina tribe through her mothers’ father, Dr Teariki Matenga, she has a passion for the islands and the people, and says when she returns from her studies she will put her knowledge to good use.
“I have a passion for the islands and so that part is a no-brainer.”
She attributes her successful year to support from her family and friends and also gives thanks to God.
“I have just been so blessed with this opportunity, and I give thanks to the Heavenly Father for guiding me through this journey that I have taken over the past year.”