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Scholarship Opportunity: America's Junior Miss

  • Chantelle Wright Contributing Writer
  • 2005 6 May
Scholarship Opportunity: America's Junior Miss

When someone asked Chantelle a question, she would turn bright red, mumble something and flee the room. She went home desparate one night, bemoaning her severe shyness yet determined to find some way to overcome it. She decided entering a local pageant was the answer to push her out of her shyness.

When she discussed this idea with her mother, the first reaction was, "No child of mine will ever be in a pageant!" But Chantelle talked through her reasons and researched pageant systems that were good and wholesome. Ultimately, she set her sights on America's Junior Miss, and entered various local, state and national pageants to prepare for Jr. Miss. Read on for Chantelle's Story...

I heard about the Junior Miss program when I was 15 -- too young to enter since they accept only juniors in high school -- so I had to wait two years. I used that time to build up my interview ability, polish my singing and poise onstage, and work on my social skills. I asked the state leaders if they were open to homeschoolers and they said they loved them!

Some counties have an entire pageant where girls compete against each other and the overall winner receives scholarship money and goes on to compete in the state program. For girls in counties without official programs, they can enter through "At-Large" placement, where the competition is against a score and not against the other girls. If you beat a certain score, you become a state finalist.

Five of the six girls in my At-Large program proceeded to the next level. A volunteer was assigned to the "At-Large" finalists to help them with interviewing, wardrobe and any other questions or needs we had. Interview ability counts as 25% of the judging score, so we had a mock interview session where past state finalists and volunteers asked us questions ranging from personal opinion to current events. I also had mock interviews with bank officers, friends, and business people. This helped me formulate concise answers quickly.

Hints for homeschool candidates: the questions seem to concentrate on why your parents homeschool you, if homeschooling is your "issue of concern" or if you can broaden your view to include educational issues in the public and private sectors. Know your state and local officials (Senators, Representatives, Governor, Secretary of State, etc.), and national politicians. Give personal stories when they apply, and honestly answer "I don't know" if you don't.

Nine weeks before the state program, we met for Orientation and to learn a 10-minute choreographed aerobic routine to be performed onstage at the state finals. Fitness counts for 15% of each candidate's score, so we went home with videos of the routine and advice to practice it daily. To get myself in top physical shape, I also swam daily, worked out at the gym and lost a few pounds in the process.

The state program began on a Saturday. I left home to spend a week in a volunteer's home with four other state finalists. We spent the week practicing routines and going to fun places: meeting with our state's Governor and Secretary of State; climbing rock walls and rope bridges, line dancing and more. I had a blast!

On Friday, we presented our fitness routine and poise before a live audience of family, friends, and Junior Miss volunteers where the judges scored and ranked us against each other. For the first time during the entire week, we were allowed to see our parents after the program! It was wonderful to tell them about the week, and thank them for all the flowers and letters they sent to encourage us during our absence.

The finals were held on Saturday, where our talent was judged, scores tallied and winners announced. I won "Overall Poise" and scholarship money for college! Even though I didn't win the state title, would I do it again? Yes. I gained so much from my preparation, that I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Other homeschool high school juniors have also participated in Junior Miss. Rachel Higgins of Colorado and Rachel Olds from Kansas both held their state's title, won scholarship money and competed in the national America's Junior Miss in Mobile, Alabama the summer of 2002.

National Jr. Miss Winners

Following in the tradition of her mother, Amy Kerr gave Junior Miss a whirl. She had grown up surrounded by stories of the girls' wonderful experiences and lasting friendships. Armed with talent, poise under pressure, community service, and excellent scholastic achievement, Amy won Oregon's Junior Miss, then 10 months later became America's Junior Miss for 2002. Her scholarship monies totaled $76,300.

Carrie Colvin was 6 years old when she first heard of America's Junior Miss. The thought of performing onstage appealed to her dramatic personality. But, her perception of Junior Miss at age 6 and her actual experience at 16, were two different scenarios. What she didn't understand at the time was what Junior Miss is really about: the successful girls she would meet while competing, the poise and articulation she would gain, and the scholarships she could win. But she felt that she had been preparing for this moment all her life. And all these talents helped her win the title of America's Junior Miss 2001 and walk away with scholarships totaling $76,300, currently being used in her pursuit of a medical career.

Being a representative of America's finest college-bound young women, Carrie traveled extensively, speaking to youth on the "Be Your Best Self" program. One of her more exciting opportunities was traveling to Dublin, Ireland to participate in the American Academy of Achievement's International Summit. There, she witnessed the exciting presentation of the Golden Plate Award, the Academy's recognition for people who are distinguished in such fascinating fields as art, politics, and literature. She also brushed shoulders with actor James Earl Jones, spoke with scientist Dr. James Watson, and met Bono from the indisputably popular Irish rock group U2.

Carrie's advice for those participating in Junior Miss, "Focus on the fun, friendships, and lessons that Junior Miss provides, and the competition will slip to the back of your mind. And, most of all, be calm and relaxed while showing your true self."

And just what are the judges of AJM looking for? Surprisingly, beauty is low on the list. Scholastics, interview ability, talent, fitness and poise (demeanor, style and onstage speaking ability). No swimsuits, bikinis, slits or strapless clothing allowed. The best word to describe their style is wholesome. Think Doris Day, the "Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie." And imagine Diane Sawyer (America's Junior Miss for 1963) and Deborah Norville (Georgia's Junior Miss for 1976). They really do look for the "girl next door" who has great potential.

Amy has seen that the biggest change since becoming America's Junior Miss 2002, is the public recognition she receives. Strangers on the street stop to ask if she is "The Amy Kerr." But, with this new-found publicity she has accumulated self-confidence and grace onstage and looks forward to the upcoming changes in her life. When asked what her advice would be for girls looking to enter the program she replied without pause, "Don't hesitate to enter! This is the most amazing scholarship program for young women in the U.S., and even if you do not win a dime in scholarship money, you will come away with confidence, interview skills, and a plethora of new friendships that will last a lifetime."

So, if you are a young lady in need of scholarship money and football scholarships aren't an option, then put your talent, poise and speaking ability to the test and try one of the many scholarship programs. You'll come away with skills and friends you didn't possess before.

To find out more about America's Junior Miss, including their mission and judging criteria visit:

Chantelle Wright currently holds the title for her college, Miss Judson 2005, and will compete in the Miss Alabama America pageant this summer. She has written a booklet to help other titleholders called "Organizing the Queen." You can view her website at: