Between silent auctions, golf outings, Bingo night, and donations, state scholarship programs across the country are getting creative in the name of providing contestants, teen and miss, with money for college. The Miss America Organization is the number one provider of scholarship dollars for women in the country, and thanks to the states, the doors of higher education are wide open for young women with and without a crown.
In North Carolina, having a solid sponsor base is how the in-kind scholarship fund is built.
"Our goal is to have a solid sponsor base, both corporate and individual in nature, that fully funds our scholarships each year," say Executive Director Beth Knox.
North Carolina's annual golf tournament proceeds build up the scholarship fund substantially as does the reinstatement of the Joe Sam Routh Scholarship Fund through which sponsors throughout the state donate in the name of the long-time volunteer.
Beth and her board embrace these fundraising traditions and at the same time, they are always coming up with new ways to showcase the organization while increasing the amount they can give to contestants–in 2012 a total of $147,700 was awarded to miss contestants. This year, they are holding a fundraiser featuring Jeanne Swanner Robertson, Miss North Carolina 1963 and a humorist and public speaker in conjunction with the North Carolina Museum of History, Beth says. The museum houses the Legacy of Miss North Carolina exhibit with seventy-five years of memorabilia including gowns, costumes, photos, trophies, and crowns. Proceeds from the event will bolster the 2013 scholarship fund.
The Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program has fewer contestants than North Carolina, but just as much drive to help its young women enter the collegiate realm. They too look to fundraisers as a way to reach their scholarship goals, and Executive Director Brenda Keith says in the Granite State, they're the "roll-up-your-sleeves and work hard" type. In order to establish a weekly Bingo fundraising event, the program had to cut through a lot of red tape to secure a charitable gaming event license.
"It took me six months to get the state-issued license. I had to have my state senator sponsor a legislative change in 2000 allowing a 501 (c)(4) to conduct charitable gaming events. The Bill passed and we've run bingo ever since," Brenda says.
Coupled with an annual golf tournament and the Miss New Hampshire Ball, the state program is able to obtain 88 percent of its scholarship funding through events. The rest, about $35,000, comes from corporate contributions.
No matter the fundraiser, however the sponsorship is acquired, scholarship programs from north to south and east to west agree, the more money the merrier when it comes to sending young women to college. Organization volunteers and titleholders alike work tirelessly to share MAO with the entire country in order to convey its continued commitment to higher education.
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Photo: Jeanne Swanner Robertston, Miss North Carolina 1963 and congeniality winner presenting the $1,000 Miss Congeniality award that she sponsors each year