As our magazine comes to an end, Kasie Smith, president and publisher, and Jennifer Reeves, sales director, want to take a look back at all of the wonderful memories the Miss America Organization, the Miss America's Outstanding Teen Organization, and all of our readers have given them through the nine years of publication.
Attending college may be the norm, but organizations like Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen are working to make sure debt doesn’t come standard with a degree. Thankfully, many colleges and universities across the country are ready to provide in-kind scholarships to national contestants and titleholders.
Many MAOTeen contestants are on the verge of commencing the college experience, and after the 2013 competition, award winners are stepping a little lighter knowing college expenses will be less of a burden. Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen Heather Shen was awarded $3,000 in combined cash scholarships, in addition to four-year renewable, full-tuition scholarships to Auburn University, Hollins University, and Troy University. Heather said she understands the gravity of college loans; she has an older sister. But now, she can help her parents and her education. “I know how expensive it can be,” Heather said, “and to be offered so much is heart-warming to me.”
Many former titleholders are already reaping the benefits of in-kind scholarships, and they returned to MAOTeen 2013 to tell the tale. Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen 2010 Cecili Weber attends Hollins University—where full tuition, half tuition, and $25,000 scholarships were awarded to MAOTeen contestants this year. The university appealed to Cecili because of its high rate of graduates finding jobs soon after graduation. The monetary incentive played a big role, too.
For former teens like Miss Viriginia's Outstanding Teen 2012 Andolyn Medina, scholarships are a chance to give parents recognition and thanks for the support they provided through the pageant journey. "When I was told about scholarships at Hollins, I thought, here's finally my chance to pay my parents back for everything they've put in for me to be a part of this organization," Andolyn said. “Everyone wants to graduate debt-free, and because of MAOTeen and Hollins, I’ll be able to.”
The benefit of in-kind scholarships isn’t just for award recipients. Universities are also at an advantage with MAO and MAOTeen contestants among the student body. “These girls are the best of all the students in the United States,” said Brenda Campbell, Troy University director of graduate studies. “These are the kind of students we want.” MAOTeen builds a program that expects a high caliber of young women, and colleges recognize that and respond by allotting scholarship dollars. MAOTeen invites new colleges to take part in their annual college fair, or to attend pageant competitions so they can see for themselves the level of maturity, academic excellence, and community service contestants are capable of. After that, it doesn’t take much convincing.
There are indeed many opportunities to advance academically. And with the help of MAO and MAOTeen, more young women can go to college and graduate without so much debt. Still, no matter the cost, education is the most valuable asset for young women to have. “No one can take your education away,” Brenda said. “Wealth may come and go, but academics is everything.”
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine's staff writer.
The Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen organizations awarded $7,000 and $5,000 respectively, in preliminary competition scholarships in 2013. Contestants performed their talents, showcased their health and fitness, and proved their poise and stateliness. And for their representation of each phase of competition, judges’ panels scored young women who now carry on in their academic studies with the promise of funding. But performances in Atlantic City and Orlando were far from improvised, and those contestants who were awarded are willing to share their secrets for preliminary scholarship success.
Many Miss America’s Outstanding Teen state titleholders join together to form the AOT Sorority, an exclusive group of former national competitors whose wish it is to continue supporting and giving back to an organization that has meant and done so much for them. Sorority sister and Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen 2006 Tawni Darby promises there’s no hazing going on in the AOT Sorority—just fun!
What does it mean to be a member of the AOT Sorority?
The purpose of the sorority is to get former titleholders involved in the organization again—to get the girls to come back to the national pageant and volunteer, whether it be with Teens in Training Camp, photo shoots, and so on. It’s designed as a way to give back and keep in touch. This year, we created a private Facebook group. It’s so easy to lose touch, but as soon as the group was started, girls were able to reconnect and found they have so many mutual connections—especially with so many former teens going on to win at their Miss competitions. It’s a good way to give back to an organization that has given so much.
Does the sorority host any events throughout the year?
I was so excited for the luncheon we held at MAOTeen this year. There were a lot of formers in town for the national competition. It was great, because many of the girls I competed with seven years ago are now married or getting their Ph.D.s, but we’re all spread out. It was nice to have a structured way to reconnect. When we got together to talk about our experiences, that’s when the brainstorming could start. And there’s something we share that no one else can understand. After competition, we go home and try to explain our experiences to friends and family. But there are inside things we experience just by being here—like Pam, the choreographer who has been here since the beginning and her mannerisms, or the crazy stagehand backstage who’s always making jokes. We really have formed a sorority-like bond.
What is the long-term benefit of being a member of the AOT Sorority?
This sorority helps reconnect girls who have gone through the organization. These girls are doing incredible things, and it’s amazing to see how much our lives can intertwine. We have a great talent pool, and sorority sisters can take advantage of that by networking—that’s how I got my internship with MAOTeen. This whole organization was born out of people connecting and utilizing talents and leadership. They’re people who probably wouldn’t have come together otherwise. That’s what we are doing with the sorority. We need the talents and abilities of former titleholders to build our team, and it’s important in an organization like this that is primarily run by volunteers. And that’s why it’s also important to stay connected. I believe that the formers are going to be the future of the organization. One could be the next president, or just a volunteer.
Who can be a member of the AOT Sorority, and how can they sign up?
Any former Outstanding Teen state titleholder that has competed at nationals since 2005 can join. We started small with girls from just a few different classes, but now we are more spread out. Ideally it would be amazing to have one or two girls from every state and every year.
Learn more about AOT Sorority membership at www.maoteen.org.
Miss America's Outstanding Teen Leah Sykes was on the road in November. Here is a glimpse into her month.
Once Elizabeth performs, she will join Miss Delaware 2011 Maria Cahill, Miss New Jersey 2011 Katharyn Nicolle, Miss Pennsylvania 2011 Juliann Sheldon, Miss Delaware's Outstanding Teen 2011 Victoria Brown-O'Brien, Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2011 Natalie Ragazzo, Miss Pennsylvania's Outstanding Teen 2011 Kaitlynne Kline, and seven of Miss America's Outstanding Teen Princesses as they ride on the Kittens float through the parade route. There will be about 850,000 people that participate in this year's parade and it will be viewed in more than 3.2 million homes across the nation. We wish Elizabeth and all of our MAO and MAOTeen participants the best of luck.
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