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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Miss USA pageant is just a week away and this year, the contestant is a young woman from the Chicago area.

Her name is Ashley Hooks and CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says she’s someone you should know.

The Thompson Center is a crossroads of state government activity. One of the state workers who settles in for a day at the office — Monday through Friday — is 25-year-old Ashley Hooks.

She’s a special legal projects manager for the Department of Central Management Services.

And she’s Miss Illinois USA for 2012. She was crowned last November at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

“I still couldn’t believe it,” Hooks tells Porterfield.

The Glenwood resident is a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Earning a bachelor’s degree in urban planning at the University of Illinois at Champaign, she was honored as a presidential scholar.

Interestingly, she was a runner-up in the Miss Illinois contest for 2011, and giving it a second try was certainly worth the effort.

“When I placed the first year second-runner up I was ecstatic,” she says. “Since I did, there was no way I was going leave that hanging this year and not come back.”

Hooks says being Miss Illinois USA has been a rewarding experience and she’s looking forward to representing the state in Las Vegas on June 3 when she competes for the title of Miss USA 2012.

“I’m hoping I can make everyone in Illinois proud,” she says.

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