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Paula Mae Winiarski has influenced the community. As Miss Racine, Miss Wisconsin, and currently working as an Intensive Care Unit nurse, she’s found a way to advocate for the people in Racine.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Winiarski set out to be in the healthcare field with the mission to help others. In various roles, Winiarski has stepped up to the plate to serve Racine. We honor her as the Racine County Eye Hometown Hero of the Week for her unwavering love for Racine and passion for the people in the community.

The 2012 Case High School graduate was a member of Health Youth Apprenticeship and started working in healthcare at just 15 years old. Currently, she works as an ICU Nurse at Ascension All Saints. Additionally, she is on her way to becoming a Mid-level provider. Working towards her Doctorate and serving as a frontline worker through the thick of a global pandemic speaks as a testament to the kind of person Winiarski is.

“Racine is home,” says Winiarski.

In numerous ways, she’s giving back to the community that’s been giving to her. Winiarski felt a calling to work in healthcare, and she’s now living out her mission to help people locally. However, she credits her success to her family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors and community members.

Making Full Circle through the Miss America Organization

In 2012, Winiarski was crowed Miss Racine. She competed in the Miss America Organization, also winning the title of Miss Madison Capital City 2013. That wasn’t all; at just 19 years old, she became Miss Wisconsin too.  

Paula Mae (Kuiper) Winiarski crowed as Miss Wisconsin

“Breaking the Age Barrier” was Winiarski’s platform. She traveled the state educating and uniting different generations together. Through this outlet, Winiarski provided wishes to deserving seniors in the community through an organization called “Wishes of a Lifetime.”

Becoming an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network because of the Miss America Organization strengthened Winiarski’s love for helping others. That’s not all for this go-getter; Winiarski has the same goal as a healthcare worker. 

Throughout the past year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s seen her life come full circle. The causes she advocated for, what her role represented as a titleholder, and how she plans to care for future patients as a Doctor of Nursing Practice all have been a long time coming, but finally have come around full circle.

COVID-19 Impact

Nurse Winiarski

As an ICU Nurse, Winiarski saw firsthand how this pandemic affected the Racine community. She saw the challenges it physically took on patients, but also caregivers. It pushed those working in the healthcare field.

Winiarski says, “I am so proud to call myself a nurse, and I give kudos to all of the healthcare workers.”

The impact of COVID-19 reached beyond the walls of the hospital. Winiarski wasn’t only working to protect her patients but wanted to also prevent the spread of COVID-19 to her family and other community members.

She says she “felt fortunate” to be supported by her loved ones. Through every life endeavor, she credits hard work and her support system for her success.

Winiarski comments that because of COVID-19 and being a frontline worker that “emotionally taking care of herself” was crucial to get through the difficult times. After long shifts, Winiarski loves coming home to her husband and two dogs. She wasn’t alone but noted that taking it day by day helped her get through challenges.

Heart in Racine

Winiarski continues to serve the people of Racine because they have also served her.

She says, “Racine is a really special place with really special people.”

Being a healthcare worker is one thing, but at the end of the day, Winiarski is a community member. She wears her heart on her sleeve. Whether it is bumping into an old friend when dining at Mike Angelos, picking up donuts from Ms. Jean at the Piggly Wiggly Bakery, or running along the shores of Lake Michigan, there is so much that this woman appreciates about the place she calls home.

It was Racine that took her to the Miss America stage. While she did not win the title of becoming Miss America, she did earn scholarships that have supported her financially. These connections and her service work throughout the city and state have been building blocks for her career.

She’s more than a nurse and more than a provider. Through the COVID-19 pandemic and difficult health circumstances patients may experience, she’s become a hero. For her commitment, support, outreach and passion for Racine, we honor Paula Mae Winiarski as the Racine County Eye Hometown Hero.

Hometown Hero

Do you know someone like Winiarski who works as a healthcare worker and has made a difference in Racine? Share their story by contacting Emma Widmar at and let us know why you think they should be honored.

Read about other heroes in the community by clicking here.

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