Emily Sioma said she expected her university commencement ceremony to be full of empowerment and celebration.
Sioma, from Grass Lake, was graduating from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in women's studies and a minor in sociology.
When Sioma began to feel patronized by commencement speaker Michael Bloomberg's speech, she felt she couldn't sit silently.
So she stood silently, among thousands of sitting students. On her cap, the words "I survived" were painted in teal, a reference not just to surviving college, but also to surviving campus sexual assault.
"For me, that was, at the time, the hardest thing I had ever done," Sioma said, recalling the booing and objects thrown at her as she stood in protest. "I was met with so much torment in that moment that I realized, this is going to be a hard battle I'm going to be fighting for the rest of my life, but if I don't start now, who's going to do it?"
It was a defining moment for Sioma, who realized then that she needed to change her platform for the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant.
Sioma, now 24, was crowned Miss Michigan 2018 on Saturday, June 16 at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon.
Her platform for the next 365 days? "I Believe You: Supporting survivors of sexualized violence."