Donna Bozarth is the Miss America Outstanding Teen Chairman of the Board and has been since its beginning in 2005. She says teen contestants who are prepared will have the best experiences of all.
My first experience with the Miss America Organization was in the late 1980s when I was designing and making costumes for a song and dance troupe at Mississippi College. One of the members of the group won the Miss Mississippi College pageant. She could not afford an expensive gown, so I offered to make her one. She didn't win Miss Mississippi, but I was asked to make the same gown for the new Miss Mississippi, Carla Haag. Like most little girls, I grew up watching Miss America and dreamed of being on that stage one day. Well, I never made it, but a dress I designed and made did! So I took my first trip to Atlantic City to see Carla wear my dress and I was hooked.
I started a local miss preliminary (in Florida) called Miss Space Coast and then served on the Miss Florida board for a few years. During that time, I judged several miss state pageants. I continued to attend the Miss America pageant every year and developed some wonderful friendships across the country with the great volunteers who are the backbone of the Miss America organization. It was though those friendships that I was initially contacted about helping to start the teen program. Now, it seems like there are hundreds of teen programs to choose from.
I love our program because of our scholarship opportunities and our connection to the Miss America organization. When looking for a pageant in which to participate, I would recommend looking at their requirements, contracts (very important), and benefits. If a teen is interested in the Miss America system, I would look for every opportunity to compete on the local and state level. To me, successful pageant contestants are those who prepare to do their best and make the most of the experience. Only one will win the crown, but everyone can build on their competition experiences in the future and be the best they can be on whatever stage they choose.
Our goal has always been to develop a top-notch scholarship program for outstanding teens, and to continue to grow our scholarship and our college relationships so more outstanding teens can benefit from this program.
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Photo: Donna Bozarth with Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2012 Elizabeth Fechtel and MAOTeen 2013 contestants. Credit: Allen Dye