Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen's Blog
So much to be thankful for!
I began the month with my National Association of Teachers of Singers Competition at The College of New Jersey. This is my second year participating and I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. This very same day was the Miss Salem County and Miss Salem County Outstanding Teen pageant. Congratulations to Ashleigh Murphy Salem County's Outstanding Teen and Miss Salem County Leevon Lacy. Best of luck girls on a great year and good luck at your state competitions. The following week I was excited to judge a local regional pageant, the Gateway Regional. Thank you to the pageant board for including me and allowing me to spend the day getting to know all the contestants. The following weekend was the opening of my fall production, "The Miracle Worker". Thank you to so many members of my Miss NJ family who came out to support me. Thank you also to those who sent kind words and encouragement. This is one of the many reasons I love the Miss NJ Education Foundation so much. They support me in everything I do. The following weekend I was blessed to spend some time at the Woodland Village in Cape May Court House for Christmas caroling with some of my teen and miss sisters. We were also blessed with warm weather this evening, which made it even better. Santa's arrival and the tree lighting were among many of the high lights. Throughout this month I have spent a large amount of time juggling college applications, scholarships and audition applications. As some of you may know I'm planning on pursuing a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre in college. Some of the schools I've applied to are; NYU Tisch, Wagner, Pace, Boston Conservatory and Shenandoah Conservatory. My family and I have set aside time to visit and try and decide which school is the best fit for me. I would like to give a big thank you to one of my miss sisters Ashlyn Leveson, Miss Cape May County. When I visited NYU Ashlyn set aside time to take me on a tour of the campus. Another reason I feel so blessed to have this organization in my life. Sisterhood has no limits. I ended the month with one of the most wonderful ways any titleholder could. I performed along with my pageant sister and former Miss NJ 2012 Lindsey Petrosh in the 6ABC Philadelphia Thanksgiving parade. And if this wasn't enough excitement I got to ride on the Miss America float with my current Miss NJ sister Cara McCollum, Miss NJ 2013. In addition to that, the blessings kept coming. It was here that I was reunited with my MAOT sisters once again for the parade. Katie May Schrekengast, Miss Pennsylvania's Outstanding Teen, Tanee DeCosta, Miss Delaware's Outstanding Teen and Leah Syke's Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2014. Amongst others were Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund and many others. What a special treat this was and a great way to be thankful for all this amazing organization has offered me. A special thank you to MAOT volunteer Anthony Larusso who shuttled us down to the parade route. There are no words to express to the depths of my heart how much I value all of my directors, sisters, contestants, family, teachers and friends. I give thanks for all of you daily and am so glad that God has placed all of you in my life. May your holidays be full of joy and happiness.
All my love,
Miss NJOT 2013
September and October
The time had come to sharpen my pencils and cover my books. This outstanding teen was heading back to Middle Township High School as a senior.
How did this happen so fast? Where did the time go? I'm not ready!!! That's what we sometimes say when we head back to school after labor day. However, this year was different, in a good way. I was excited to return to my high school where I received what seemed like a hero's welcome. The students and faculty all greeted me with congratulations on my success at MAOT. This made me so excited and proud to know that a part of that success lied in each of them. As any high school senior would feel a bit overwhelmed by a new course load and new expectations, this senior was feeling nothing short of that. However, my mind couldn't stop thinking about the most exciting thing that was about to happen. Miss America was making it's return to Atlantic City for the first time in seven years. There weren't even words to explain how happy I was about this and how I would have a chance to experience it all first hand with my fellow Outstanding Teen sisters. Soon enough one by one my pageant sisters began arriving in Atlantic City where we were reunited after three weeks since I last saw them at MAOT. We had the pleasure of having a large amount of our MAOT class make the trip to the Jersey Shore. However, two people who are very special to me stayed with us for the week. New York's OT Krysta Prehoda and New Hampshire's OT Kenya Welch. I was super lucky to have the girls with me for the week. Perhaps nothing could top the level of excitement that I had when I found out that I would have the chance to open the pageant on Tuesday, September 10th singing our national anthem. I was honored and humbled to take the stage as Miss NJOT to sing our nations anthem right here in my very own community. Blessings never seem to stop coming this year and this by far is one I will never forget. Thank you to the Miss America Organization and the producers for having confidence in me and giving me that special opportunity. Thank you also to Lynn Skorenko of Rue Royale Couture for dressing me as I took the stage to sing. The gown she helped me choose was a beautiful pink Tony Bowls and it was so pretty. As preliminaries were under way we were strongly supporting our big sisters competing for the prestigious title of Miss America. New Jersey's own Cara McCollum was absolutely beautiful in every way. Words aren't enough to describe the elegance and sophistication that she exuded everywhere she went. In addition to being amazing in every way, Cara was getting a lot of love in Atlantic City that week because of being the hosting state on the year of the pageants return. This was so special for her and for the entire state of NJ. She represented us with pride and I couldn't have been more proud. As she took the stage in swimsuit, talent and on-stage question and gown, she was flawless in every way. The amount of admiration and love I felt to be there supporting and cheering on this amazing young lady I was fortunate enough to call my sister was priceless. Each night I attended visitation after a long night of preliminaries just to be able to give her a hug and tell her how good she was doing. Her enthusiasm never seemed to dwindle. Her energy and passion stayed strong throughout. During the day while we weren't at preliminary competitions the teens were busy practicing our choreography for Wednesday night when the MAOT class of 2014 would rock the Miss America stage. This was such a great time to be reunited on the stage with the girls who became my sisters. I know how proud we were to bring a piece of what we worked on in Orlando to America. As the week was moving on we strolled the boardwalk in Atlantic CIty in fast fashion as we kept a very busy schedule. There was some down time and we took advantage as much as we could. With the opening of the Miss America Store in the pier shop several of us were treated to makeovers by R.E.I.G.N. beauty. Thank you to Joe Killmyer and Sara Winsky from R.E.I.G.N. for treating us to a great new look. As we moved towards the end of the week we had a day of rest. Friday was a great day to set out on the town and show my MAOT sisters what the Jersey shore had to offer. Myself, Joan and my Mom had planned an awesome day on the town for the girls. Our first stop we took was at the historic Lucy The Elephant in Ventnor. This is a national landmark and everyone was surprised to see how enormous Lucy was. We set back on the road and headed to The Children's Miracle Network satellite hospital in Egg Harbor, NJ. With the help of Kaitlin Davis and Gianna Trotter we were able to bring love from all over America right here to some very special patients in our community. The girls and I began decorating cards for the patients as Kaitlin and Gianna helped us tour and meet some of the patients. We were all wearing our jeans in support of Miracle Jeans Day which is one of the hospitals special days that the patients decorate jeans. This stop was the most significant on the tour as we got to see first hand the appreciation and love these patients gave to us during our visit. This was a stop I desperately wanted to make because Children's Miracle Network is the national platform for the MAOT and MAO organization. Before long we were ready to say good-bye and the love those patients gave that day will be forever imprinted on my heart. Thank you again to Kaitlin and Gianna for making this happen. Our next stop was the Sheraton Hotel which is home to the Miss America Museum. Here the girls had such a great time seeing all the Miss America memorabilia. Getting to see pieces of our Miss A history from each and every state was classic. We had a great time posing with the dresses and crowns and dreaming of the possibilities of our Miss America moments. What a fun time we had seeing how this organization was shaped and changed over the years. One thing that we saw that hasn't changed is that these women were absolutely stunning, beautiful and timeless. It was fun for us to see the forever Miss America's take the stage throughout the preliminaries and final night and to see how they've changed since their crowning moments. One thing did not change. They are still all as beautiful and classy now as they were then. We had finally worked up an appetite and were ready to settle in for lunch at the Rain Forest Cafe in Atlantic City. Thank you to everyone there who was so kind to us and accommodated our big crowd. We were blessed to be joined there by our amazing Chairman Of The Board of MAOT, Donna Bozarth and former MAOT Traveling Companion Dianne Sarchet. A great time was had by all. We then headed to our final destination where we visited the newly opened Miss America Store where we were able to shop and get a look at some of the fabulous new merchandise. Thank you to all the people at the Miss America store who treated us so kindly. Thank you to all the sponsors and people who made the Outstanding Teen Tour day possible. Some of those people are; Joan Cooper, Lou Barthold, Joan Lucas and all her helpers, Reef Family Pharmacy, Miss NJOT 2011 and her parents Gene and Liz Ragazzo, Avalon Country Club, Lilliston Ford, Sturdy Savings Bank, Lozier Dentistry and the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation. The week was nearing the end and there was only one thing left to do and that was to crown our New Miss America. Congratulations to our forever Miss America 2013 Mallory Hytes Hagan on a fabulous year of service. Mallory had the honor of crowning her New York pageant sister Nina Davuluri. Nina is a beautiful, elegant, sophisticated, educated woman who is doing a great job representing us as Miss America 2014. It was time to say goodbye to my MAOT sisters and head back to school where I needed to catch up on all I had missed. I auditioned for my fall production and was excited to be cast in as "Anne Sulivan" in "The Miracle Worker". Rehearsals are in full swing and the show is in November. Later on in the month I attended and helped host the shore Miss pageant. Such a great day to be surrounded by so many wonderful contestants and to share in their journey. The lives of three awesome ladies were changed that night; the new Miss Atlantic Shore Melissa Hoffman, Miss Eastern Shore Devon Vanderslice and Miss South Shore Area Amanda Ross. Congratulations ladies and good luck at Miss New Jersey. Also, congratulations was in order as we welcomed in three new teens in September also. The new Miss Atlantic Shores OT Shereen Pimentel, Miss Eastern Shores OT Kennedy Stillman and Miss South Shore Area's OT Amy Phillips. Good luck at Miss NJ's Outstanding Teen ladies.
The weather was starting to change and the leaves were beginning to fall. All the signs the fall season were upon us and it was time to welcome in a Shore Little pageant. I attended the Shore Little orientation where I got to meet all the contestants and spend time encouraging them. They were all so sweet and unbelievably talented. I was so impressed! Later that week I was able to host the "Mr. Middle" contest at my high school. This was a fun night and I was able to perform the national anthem and also show off my talent song from nationals. It was awesome to share this with my school community. That weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Miss Columbus Day pageant. I had such an amazing time seeing everyone and getting to cheer the contestants on. There was also time for shopping as our very own Joan Lucas was set up there with all the Miss NJ merchandise. Congratulations was in order for three beautiful women who won the titles of the Columbus Day triple; Sandra Okuboyejo, Miss Southern Counties, Lindsey Giannini, Miss Columbus Day and Courtney Fairfield, Miss Atlantic County. Good luck to all three girls at Miss New Jersey. I would also like to give a warm welcome to Nicolle Tepdedino-Piergiovanni as the first ever Miss Southern Counties Director. I was back to the boardwalk even though the temperatures were cold as I performed at the Junior Miss Ocean City Pageant. Congratulations to the new Junior Miss Ocean City Julia Erickson. Congratulations also to Angie Abdelrehim, Miss Gateway, Ellen Chu, Miss Tri-County and Miss Northern Lakes, Samantha Rossi. Congratulations was also in order that day as the new Miss Monmouth County and Miss Central Coast were crowned. The new Miss Central Coast is Anna Negron, who was my very first pageant sister. Anna, I love you to the moon and back. The new Miss Monmouth County is Victoria Slinger. Congratulations ladies and I'm so sorry I wasn't able to be there to see you win. The Shore Family welcomed nine new titles to the pre-teen, little and tiny. Congratulations to all our new winners and may you have an amazing year. I finished up the month of October with the Halloween parade in my home town. This was a nice treat to see all the familiar faces. The month ended just as fast as it began. Stay tuned for next month.
All my love,
Miss NJOT 2013
July and August
Balance is key for July and August. Finding my new balance was crucial.
July brought warm weather and lots of people to the southern most point of our state. This summer was especially nice for all of us here at the shore after having so much of it affected by Hurricane Sandy. There were times when we didn't know if the community would rally back before the much awaited and busiest season of the year. However, New Jersey proved to be truly stronger than the storm. And although, there were many renovations still under way, all of us here at the shore found a way to enjoy all the beauty that we have to offer. While my family was busy enjoying the beaches, boardwalks and all the great outdoors has to offer during the summer months, I was off to the races. I hit the ground running and began fo-cusing as intensely as I possibly could. Focus, preparation, organization, discipline, rehearsal, fine tuning and setting goals became a few of my best friends. The dream of a lifetime was about to happen to me. I had the honor of preparing for a life changing experience. My journey to Miss America's Outstanding Teen. Some say that MAOT itself was amazing and truly the best opportunity they've ever had, but for me it was also the "getting there". This was one of the most gratifying things I've ever done. Defying my body and mind further than I ever thought possible. I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to. It was at this moment that I realized, what I put into this experience is what I would get out. I committed to myself and the Miss New Jersey family to give 100 percent of myself. It was at this point that I let everything else fall away and I began making choices. Fearlessness and determination became the two things that motivated me every day. Fear was something I didn't allow myself to feel. I had no idea what MAOT would bring, but I couldn't allow that to overwhelm me. If New Jersey was stronger than the storm, than I had better at least come in physically fit. I took to the gym training with two personal trainers 3 and 4 times a week and regular gym workouts with lots of cardio at least 6 days a week. Sometimes this meant being in the gym more than once a day. Prior to now that would have fatigued me just thinking about it, but with each and every session I gained more strength and confidence. Mock interviews never took a vacation as we did them at least once a week. Thank you to everyone that never grew tired of hearing me answer all the tough questions and listen to me pour my passion out for my platform. You are all a gracious audience. Talent rehearsals were seemingly endless and some days my voice just didn't cooperate, but none the less I kept belting the notes. Wardrobing was an endless detail that I tried to keep up with daily. Sometimes, these decisions could be the most consuming part. Often times I would second guess myself in this area. Mostly, I think this is because every time I bought something, I went to the store and saw something else. If your like me, shopping can be a sport. It's a lot of fun and I loved everything I put on. Endless phone calls daily to Joan and my shore directors seemingly kept the phone company in business. Fitness rehearsals, dance routines and production numbers began to fill my days as well. These routines were high energy, fun to do and really got me excited to begin envisioning myself on the MAOT stage. This was the true beginning of the mark I would make and putting New Jersey on the map down at MAOT. Everyday I gained new energy as I thought about making everyone here in our great state proud. I continued to think about the gift the Miss New Jersey family gave me on January 26, 2013 as I was crowned NJOT. And the trust they placed in me. This was the driving force that pushed me harder than I had ever pushed before.
This is where balance became critical as I had to continue making appearances and continuing my commitment to my platform and duties as I intensely prepared for an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I began the month of July with the Miss America's Outstanding Teen lottery. This was so exciting as New Jersey was pulled very early on and I was able to capture the group and contestant number I wanted. I was blessed to find that the last contestant slot was there waiting for me, I couldn't have been any luckier. I was fortunate enough to participate in the Philadelphia Independence Day Parade where I got to meet Miss Pennsylvania's OT and Miss Delaware's OT. They were two of the first members of the MAOT class of 2013 that I would meet. I was so excited!!!! That weekend I attended a shore Miss/Teen orientation and helped greet the new girls who were anxiously awaiting their pageants. The next appearance was the Cape May County Pageant. This was such a fun night being back on the music pier and thank you to Betty and Debbie Pruitt who always make me feel so included. We welcomed into our sisterhood a great group of titleholders that night. Congratulations to Sarah Ford and Ashlyn Laveson. Congratulations also to the OT Megan Keenan. The following day I attended my sendoff. This was a day that I eagerly awaited for months. I can't possibly put into words how much love I felt this day. Thank you doesn't even scratch the surface of how grateful I was to receive so many well wishes and blessed to have so many people join me on that special day. The Miss New Jersey family and the shore family worked hard to put this day together. I can't even begin to imagine the time that went into making this day so special for me and my family. Special thanks to Kay Aspell my South Shore Area director who worked alongside of Joan, Carol, Anne, Tony, Grammy and Michael to make this event happen. Kay your visions of bringing my love of theatre to life right there in our very own Broadway was magical. Special thanks also to Joan, Lou and Susan who also were instrumental in making this a special day. And I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of the Miss New Jersey directors who came out to show their love and support to me that day. Even if you weren't able to make it but you sent a card, gift or a message, your love was felt across the miles. Thank you to all the former Miss NJOT's who were there to wish me love and offer kind words for my journey. Your wisdom was wonderful. Thank you to my family and friends who shared in this day and traveled many miles to be there and support me. Your an inspiration to me and your support never ends. To my theatre group who surprised me with an amazing flash mob, your too talented for words. To all of my pageant sisters, your the wind beneath my wings. Thank you for taking the time to be there with me and share this time with me. To Anna Negron, thank you for helping to emcee the night and for all you do for me. Your love, dedication and commitment to sisterhood never end. Lindsey, thank you for supporting me at the send off and being such a beautiful example for me to follow. To my big sister Cara. Although, you couldn't be there, your love and support were felt across the miles. You always know how to make me laugh and bring a smile to my face. I know how busy of a time this was for you as we were both preparing for our Miss America competitions at the same time. Thank you for always making time for me. Thank you to Lou, Joan Cooper, Sally, Mary Lou , Joan Lucas, Lisa Pawlus and the entire Miss New Jersey family for all you provided me with before I left for MAOT. Especially my great luggage that I love so much. Lastly, the day wouldn't be complete without the fabulous Richard Krauss. You captured some unforgettable moments. You really brought out the best moments in the evening and made me truly look like a Queen for the day. Richard, your fabulous! Following this wonderful event I had my car wash for children's miracle network. This event was a great success. I couldn't have done this without the help of my great car washers; Mom, Dad, Kyle, McKee and Jarrett. After drying off from the car wash the following day I hosted my personal fundraiser for my trip to MAOT at the Avalon Country Club. This event was an overwhelming success and my hometown of Cape May Court House was so supportive. Thank you to all of you for coming out and helping with this event. Thank you Jonathan Brown for providing our entertainment and Julie Robenhymer for keeping me in style with her jewelry that night. Thank you to the Buckinghams and Avalon Golf Club for being such great host. Thank you to all the wonderful businesses who donated baskets, gift certificates and raffle items for the evening. With little time to rest we went into the last weekend of July with my Children's Miracle Network zumbathon. Thank you to Muscle World Gym for offering this space and to my cousin Angela for teaching the class. That same day I was off to another mock interview and the Avalon Pageant. Thank you to Kristi Pawlus-Brown and Sue Brooks for allowing me to sing at the pageant and for including me in all you do. Congratulations to Kaitlyn Schoffel and Ayla Gentiletti on their titles that night. I closed out the month with an interview with the Press of Atlantic City. This was a fun way to finally sit back and think about it all. To take a moment and really let it soak in. Until that moment, I really hadn't even considered how far I had come and how much went into the preparation. There was only one thing left to do and that was my big "Mock Interview". Thank you to Joan, Lou and Susan Nicolle for setting this up for me. The panel was wonderful and really tough on me in an effort to prepare me for anything that could come my way. Your experience and knowledge astounded me and you truly were a captive audience and my biggest fans. Taking a break from the MAOT prep I had the honor to perform in a show put on by the Ocean City Pops "Starz of Tomorrow Concert". This was a great experience as I got the opportunity to perform with other students from Juliard, Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music. This was unforgettable and a great way to enjoy a small break before my departure.
August was upon me and managing my daily routines became a full time commitment. I began writing down my daily schedule from the time I woke up till the time I went to bed, every second was accounted for. My Mom made sure to pencil in some time for brief relaxation in between. She would literally have to remind me to do that. I kicked off August with one of the most unforgettable days yet, the Outstanding Teen Mother/Daughter luncheon. Sitting and talking with all the former Outstanding Teens was unbelievably helpful. And my Mom was delighted to spend time and get information from all the Mom's about their experiences in Orlando.Thank you to Joan and all the Mom's/Daughters for making this day extra special for me. Your knowledge and helpful hints really did help me when I arrived in Florida. The following day was the Shore Miss Pageant and this was a great day to share with all the contestants, directors and volunteers. Thank you to all of my shore directors for allowing me to be part of this special day and to emcee and perform that night. This was my last time taking the stage before I departed for MAOT so this was invaluable. Packing day was upon us and by now the house was completely filled and looked like a department store. I was able to sneak away for a bit to meet Joan at the Millville Speedway to sing the national anthem. I quickly headed home to help pack the car before my parents headed for Florida with my things. It took a team of 10 people to pack it all up. Thank you Anne and Carol for the last minute deliveries and Kay for our last meeting before my departure. I waved goodbye to my parents and anxiously awaited my departure the following day. i arose that day, August 5th with great excitement. The day I waited for was finally here. One last thing to do before I left. I had to rush over to my high school for my senior portraits. Then I raced back home to meet Joan and she drove me to the airport. Joan was possibly more excited than I was. Her energy only made me more excited. We chatted and talked all about what to expect. We arrived at the airport and I got through security and said a sad farewell to Joan. I was anxious to meet my family on the other end. My flight finally touched down in Orlando and I was finally there. I grabbed the shuttle to my hotel and thats where I saw the faces of those I loved so much. Although, I knew they were exhausted from an eighteen hour car ride, they never let it show to me. Team NJ had finally arrived in Orlando and was ready to take on anything. The first thing I did when I arrived at the hotel was head straight to the fitness room. One of the perks of this hotel was it's amazing fitness facility and the reason we chose this location. My parents knew that being in Disney could take a toll on me physically and wanted me to have access to a great facility. We spent the next few days seeing the sights in Disney, but not before I got up each day I started with a workout, talent prep, interview practice and lots of phone calls to all of my directors and family. The phone calls, text messages and love are what sustained me as I prepared to depart from my parents and check in with the class of 2013. Check in day was here and I was as excited as anyone possibly could be. There is no possible way to describe how I felt, other than unimaginable! I was able to shoot my video's and pick up all my fitness and opening production wardrobe. I dropped off all my paperwork and met some really amazing and fabulous people on the MAOT board. Everyone was so so so nice! At last, I met my roommate Sheridan. She was from Texas. Sheridan and I got along right away and we both had tons of stuff to move into our room. Our nightly talks and prayers really helped sustain me after the very tiring days. Days were filled with rehearsals, rehearsals and more rehearsals. Thankfully all the practice I spent time doing really came in handy with this. We spent a lot of our down time going out to appearances at Dave and Busters, Medieval Times and Sea World. We never went anywhere without the help of our fabulous security guards Rodney and staff. And without our hostesses to keep us on track I don't know how we would have done it. They were amazing and helped us with whatever we needed. When we grew weary from rehearsal we had our awesome medical tech on hand to assist us with water, band aids and tylenol. The prelim nights were upon us and the other members of my fan club were starting to arrive. I had the pleasure of having my teen pageant sisters and their families with me in Orlando. Thank you Madison, Gabriella and Samantha. Your presence made me feel right at home. I was blessed to be able to share this experience with you and couldn't ask for more wonderful sisters. Thank you to their Mom's for supporting my family as their nerves began to build. You were always there comforting them when I couldn't be. Your all like family to us. Special thank you also to the father of our former Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen, Gene Ragazzo, who flew to Orlando to support me. You and your family are unbelievably supportive. Thank you to Chris for keeping everyone informed on my progress and for being such a great friend. Thank you to Julie Robenhymer, former Miss New Jersey, who flew in to support me. Your amazing! Thank you to the current Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum and Sally Johnston who spent the week with me. Thank you for supporting me and encouraging me each night after visitation. I was so happy to have both of you there with me, it meant so much. And lastly, the Plitnciks and the Miner's, my dance family. Thank you for planning this trip for months. When you make a promise, you stick to it. You are so wonderful for being there to support and love me and I will never forget it. Thank you again to Joan, Lou, Sally, Carol, Kay, Anne, Tony, Grammy, Michael, Susan and Mia. Your phone calls to check in with my family were much appreciated. Thank you to all of the Miss New Jersey directors who sent love through cards, emails, texts, flowers and gifts, your unbelievably kind.
My interview was the first thing I did and I was so excited to bring the best of myself to the table. It felt good knowing that they would get to see me as prepared as I possibly could be and to get to know me for the first time. I wanted them to hear my platform and really see what New Jersey had in store. The judges were so fun to talk to and really spent a lot of time getting to know my views and me as a person. Overall, it was a very exciting opportunity. The following day was the first prelim night. i performed my talent first and felt that I did the best job I could possibly do. I felt amazing in my gown donated by Dare Boutique in Cherry Hill, NJ. Thank you Beth and to Mary Lou Cake for helping with this also. The second night I competed in my evening gown and on stage question. Words can't describe how I felt when I took center stage in my beautiful gown. Thank you to Maria and The Crowning Touch in Massachusetts for helping to sponsor my gown. The final night was fitness and I felt stronger than ever. For the first time I was excited to take the stage to show off my hard work. What a victory that was for me personally. It felt good to work hard and see personal results. At last, the final night upon us. The day was spent packing, rehearsing and preparing to say goodbye to some of the best friendships I've ever made. These girls were simply amazing. So many of them were already planning to join me back in New Jersey just three short weeks later for Miss America, so this made saying goodbye a little easier.
Showtime! We performed our opening number for the last time and then they got right to the announcement of the top twelve. At this moment I had so much running through my mind. I was excited to see the results, yet suddenly fearful if I had done enough. I was eager to see my family and to talk to all my directors and supporters back home. I knew they were following me and I didn't want to let them down. It was in this moment that I knew that New Jersey would love me no matter what the outcome was. Top 12 was not a guarantee but it was what everyone was shooting for. I will never forget hearing "New Jersey" called in that 12 and how shocked and excited I was. This was unbelievably shocking for me. We were immediately sent back stage to prepare for fitness again and the competition began all over. After that they made another cut and luckily I was still standing in the top 10. Then they said the sweetest words I ever heard, that New Jersey would be the first talent the judges would hear from. I was overcome with joy! This truly was my "Moment". As I sang the song from "Jekyll and Hyde" these words couldn't be more true. At this point all anxiety and fear had left me and I just enjoyed the ride. After talent, they cut again and I was still standing in the final 8. We prepared to do our on stage question and evening gown. Once again having the chance to talk to the judges and wear that fabulous gown was amazing. And then the judges quickly began tabulating. As the runners up were called and the winner was announced there wasn't a piece of me that regretted any part of it. A beautiful girl from the state of Florida was crowned our Miss America's Outstanding Teen and she was unbelievably deserving. Congratulations Leah Sykes!!! All of the girls were fabulous and I couldn't have been more delighted to share the stage with them that night. The journey had finally come to an end. And believe me it felt good to bring home a top 8 finish for New Jersey and a top 5 interview finish.
Heading back to the gala after the competition was exciting to see all of my loved ones. I couldn't have been anymore excited. Saying goodbye was hard, but I was ready to let what happen at MAOT live on in my heart and in my mind forever. Special thanks to the people who made that experience possible; Donna Bozarth and her dream team Kristin, Kim, Jessica, Jennifer and Dianne. Without you amazing ladies none of this would be possible. You give so much of yourself and inspire others to do the same. The impact you made on us during our time at MAOT was unforgettable.
New Jersey, stay tuned as you share in my exciting week in Atlantic City. From the state that brought you the dream that a girl can be more than pretty, Miss America welcome back to Atlantic City. I am, Alyssa Sullivan Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2013.
All my love,
May and June
Summer is upon us and things are heating up quickly. I spent the majority of May winding down the school year and enjoying all the festivities we celebrate with the beginning of the summer season. I began with giving two assemblies at Brick Township Middle Schools. The students and staff were enormously supportive and welcoming to me. I enjoyed meeting all the students and sharing my message with them. It was a pleasure to exchange stories and photos with them after the presentations. Thank you to the Physical Education staff in both schools for treating me to lunch. The month of May was filled with lots of ways to find a cure for many of the illnesses that rob us of our quality of life daily. I enjoyed getting out to these events and meeting the survivors and people battling these illnesses. This to me was the greatest gift of all. Finding a way to give back to them to take one step closer to finding a cure was invaluable for me. This effort began with the Deptford Relay for Life where I sang the National Anthem. Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to be part of such a great event. I quickly raced from this event to spend some time with my shore sister Courtney Fairfield at her Dance For A Cure in Atlantic City. This was such a special evening and I was excited to support Courtney's cause. The fun didn't stop there as I traveled back to Atlantic City the following morning to join Courtney again and many of the other members of the Miss New Jersey family to take to the boardwalk to battle Breast Cancer. We didn't allow the torrential downpours to stop us. The day was a huge success and thank you to Courtney for including me and organizing our team. Back home in my community I laced up my sneakers and took to the track to walk through the night for cancer at my schools Relay for Life. Walking for someone very dear to me, my Uncle John, who lost his battle a year ago. It amazes me to see how many peoples lives have been touched by cancer. I'm hoping one day we can find a cure. I ended the month of May on a very patriotic note. I had the pleasure of being part of the Memorial Day Parade in my home town. I was honored to remember the men and women who have died serving our country. I spent the morning listening to stories from the families of their loved ones about their bravery and patriotism. Thank you for allowing me to ride in the parade and to sing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "God Bless America".
June proved to be just as much fun as May. I just loved spending so much time meeting new people and continuing my service to others and the good causes they support. I began with The Good Council Walk on the Wildwood Boardwalk where I walked to raise funds to provide homes for homeless pregnant women. This event was a huge success and I was proud to help make a difference. Next, I switched gears to start getting ready for Miss America's Outstanding Teen and spent the day with the fabulous Richard Krauss to do my head shots for nationals. I had so much fun doing this and of course Richard always has a way of making everyone look great. Thank you again Richard for capturing the best pictures ever. The moment I was waiting for was finally here……..Miss New Jersey Week. I was so excited to share this week with all my pageant sisters, directors, contestants, field directors, producers, Joan, Lou, Sally, Brittany, all the former Miss New Jersey's and of course Lindsey. I had such a memorable time with the entire Miss New Jersey family that words can't even describe. I enjoyed watching all of the contestants represent our great state with poise, grace, beauty, style, charity, scholarship and success. Saying goodbye to Lindsey was hard. Thank you Lindsey for always being such an inspiration to me and all the lives you've touched. I will always value our friendship and look forward to furthering that bond for many years to come. I am pleased to congratulate my new big sister Cara McCollum. Cara, I'm so excited to share this year ahead with you. I'm so proud of you for all your hard work and accomplishments. It's going to be a fun ride together. The Monday after the pageant was the beginning of lots of paperwork, preparation, shopping for wardrobe and planning for Miss America's Outstanding Teen. This is the most exciting part for me. Thank you to all of the people that pulled together to help me accomplish the enormous task of the paperwork and all the other details to make this a reality for me. I ended the month of June with the Atlantic City Armed Forces parade. I wish I could paint a picture of how welcoming the city of Atlantic City was to me and all the other titleholders who participated in the parade. I have never felt so much love and embrace from a city as I did this night. Hearing the cheers from the crowd and their excitement of having our Miss America Pageant back in Atlantic City was powerful. Honoring our nations Armed Forces was incredible. There were over 150 participants in the parade. Congratulations to the city of Atlantic City, what a huge undertaking that your volunteers made look easy.
I would like to leave you with a nationals update. New Jersey proved to be very lucky in the MAOT lottery this year. New Jersey was pulled early on obtaining the 17th pick. I was so very lucky to get the group and spot I wanted. I'm feeling extremely blessed and ready to work hard to make our state proud. Thank you to everyone in the Miss NJ organization and in our great state for encouraging and supporting me in so many ways. All of you make this journey so special for me. Thank you for trusting me with this job and for filling me with pride to represent you as Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen. This is a dream of a lifetime! I'm still reminding myself that it actually happened to me. Feeling blessed!
Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2013
I didn't allow the April showers to slow me down. I kicked off the month with a Coach bingo at the Wedgewood Country Club. This event is dear to me as I got a chance to participate last year as well. The evening is put on by the Gloucester County College Women's scholarship fund. They raise money to send a female student back to college.
The next event was absolutely life changing. I traveled to the Bankbridge Special Services school to donate dresses for their prom. This day was so heartwarming and I was able to bring a few of my fellow National Honor Society students who helped me donate over thirty dresses. The kids were beyond excited. This was a day that will never be forgotten.
The following day I had a very exciting time spent with my field director Mrs. Susan Nicolle. Susan and I went shopping for my evening gown for Nationals. Thank you to the Crowning Touch Amanda and Maria for sponsoring my gown. I'm in love with it and am grateful to be able to represent our great state in Orlando in August.
Back in my home town I shared in Middle Township's opening day of baseball. Thank you to my community for allowing me to sing the National Anthem and God Bless America. I couldn't ask a more supportive community. I was also able to spend time with my pageant sister, the beautiful Lindsey Petrosh. Lindsey and I traveled to Rider University to judge a pageant for students who were competing for the title of "Miss Color Me Violet". The proceeds of the evening were donated to ending violence against women. Lindsey, Sally and I had a great time. While very busy with appearances my wonderful director Joan and I made time for an evening of relaxation as I traveled to see Joan's Millville High School students perform "Beauty and the Beast". What a fun time we had. The students were unbelievably talented and I had the pleasure to meet some of them.
I couldn't have ended the month on a better note. I had the honor of helping out at the Miss New Jersey orientation in Ocean City. The girls in this years class are full of poise, beauty, style, grace, charity, scholarship and success. I was truly blessed to share their company. I'm looking forward to Miss New Jersey week in June with anticipation. However, I'm grateful to share this year of service with such a remarkable woman. Thank you Lindsey for being such a great example for me to follow. After leaving Miss New Jersey Orientation I quickly switched gears to attend my first prom on the same day. This was a wonderful evening and a night to relax and enjoy all the hard work that went into planning the evening. Thanks to all of you for your kind works and encouragement that day. Your kindness and guidance have been invaluable to me. I can't say thank you enough to the entire Miss NJ family for your continued support and love.
As always, I write this blog feeling enormously blessed to be your Miss NJ's Outstanding Teen 2013. Until next time……………………..
Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen 2013
February was a busy month and I got to experience so many exciting things and meet so many new people. I'm finally realizing that my dream has become a reality.
One of my favorite parts of the job is getting to attend all the local pageant's and watch other wonderful girl's see their dreams come true. So many hardworking, dedicated girls have been newly crowned and I'm so lucky to have shared in their moment. The first pageant I attended as MNJOT 2013 was the Miss Cumberland County pageant. A huge congratulations to Ayla Gentiletti on her first try at a Miss NJ local title. The next local was the Miss Star's and Stripes pageant. Congratulations to Venessa Baez Miss Stars and Stripes and to one of my favorite shore sisters, Madison Welsh Miss Stars and Stripes Outstanding Teen. Thank you to the Cape May County and Cape Resort Pageant for allowing me to share in pageant day with the girls and also for allowing me to sing the national anthem. Best wishes to Cassidy Diamond our new Cape Resort Outstanding Teen. The next local was the Miss Liberty pageant. It was such a wonderful night and so many girls lit up that stage. Congratulations to Myra McCann, Miss Liberty and Samantha Rizzuto, Miss Liberty's Outstanding Teen. Farewell to all the outgoing queens.
In addition to going to lots of local pageants I have been able to make several appearances and participate in community service projects. New Jersey has truly welcomed me with open arms. I was able to really focus on my platform work while I spoke at the Hope Spring Banquet at the Flanders hotel in Ocean City. While speaking at the banquet I even had the good fortune of meeting Abbie Rabine, first runner up to Miss America 2002. I was so glad to be able to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who are affiliated with my message. One of my favorite things I've done so far was being a keynote speaker at the Adolescent Health Conference in New Brunswick for NJ physicians Advisory Group. There was a wide variety of people in attendance and this was a great opportunity. There were doctors, health/physical education teachers and nurses who really embraced my platform and that was wonderful. Another fun event was reading at my previous elementary school for Read Across America week. I love to read so it was so nice to share that passion with younger children and give back to my old school. The kids have such a yearning for knowledge and I'm glad I could be part of their special event. On another note, it was a very cold past few months. I rode in the Saint Patty's Day parade in Wildwood and I must say I've never been so cold in all my life. Spring please hurry. But, it was great to meet so many people right here in my shore community and would like to thank the city of North Wildwood for including me. I also got to take part in the Environmental Protection Agencies "Dash for Trash" on the Camden waterfront. It really hit me how careless people can be with our earth. It was a huge eye opener to me and I am glad that I had that experience to wake me up. I try as hard as possible to go green and encourage my friends to do the same.
I am looking forward to judging the senior talent show at Auletto's in Deptford this Saturday. It will be nice to see what it is like to sit on the other side of the judges table and see how the performers feel. I'm so excited for the upcoming Miss New Jersey orientation. Everyone is so talented this year!!!! I can't wait to see who my new big sister will be. However, those shoes will be pretty hard to fill because that Lindsey Petrosh is pretty amazing.
I would like to give a warm welcome to our new Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen Field Director, Susan Nicolle. Susan is the beautiful mother of New Jersey's own Kathryn Nicolle, former Miss NJ and former Miss NJ Outstanding Teen. She is no stranger to the organization and I can't wait to share my year with her. I look forward to continuing to serve as your MNJOT 2013. Thank you again for all of the unending support. I am so excited to continue working on my platform and influencing not just people in the organization, but as many people as I can. Continued thanks to Joan and Lou for accepting me into the family with open arms and leading me down this great path. This organization is too amazing for words. Until next time…..
Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen 2013
Well I guess dreams really do come true. It's been a little over a week since I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Being crowned Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2013 is the best moment I have yet to experience in my lifetime. I'm just so excited to be embarking on this wonderful journey with wonderful people. This first week has been amazing in itself. Everyone has taken me under their wing and I feel so welcome. Thank you to everyone for their unending support. It has been a long road to becoming NJOT, but I wouldn't do it any other way. Each morning I wake up, look in the mirror and remind myself that it really happened. My whole life my family always told me that I was destined to do great things. Now I finally know what they were thinking. This organization is so beautiful and so inspirational. It has made me a better Alyssa and for that I could never say thank you enough. But, I'm not the only one. Last Saturday I competed against 14 of the best young women in New Jersey and any of them could have easily been NJOT 2013. They are all so beautiful, intelligent and hardworking. These girls have become my sisters and have helped shape the woman I always strived to be. Just spending two days with them was life changing. The NJOT class of 2013 truly is outstanding and so unbelievably talented. Thus, being the reason I must remind myself everyday that this happened to me. I thank God everyday for choosing me for the experience of a lifetime. I think of my pageant sisters everyday and wish them well in all their endeavors.
I am now approaching my second week as MNJOT and I'm aching to start. I will continue my school tour which I have begun with a group called Peer Challenge Commit 2 Character to promote my platform. In mid March I will be speaking and performing at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City at a banquet on their behalf. Thank goodness pageantry has given me all the tools I needed. This organization works closely with my platform and has given me many opportunities to affect so many lives with my life story. The look on the kids faces when I come into their classroom is so priceless. I will never forget it. I can't wait to go back to previous schools I have visited and show them my shiny new piece of jewelry. They were all so excited for me. That is what this organization is about. We are affecting lives, making a difference and being role models. All of those women last Saturday are making a difference in some way. I am just so excited to make a difference. Even if you just help one child, then in my eyes you have helped a million. I'm even more excited that tomorrow, February 5th, I will be traveling to the Brick Township IHOP for national pancake day. This is an event sponsored by Children's Miracle Network. All IHOP's are raising money and awareness for children who are sick. I'm even more excited to be serving with my new sister Lindsey Petrosh. It's going to be an amazing day. The CMN is an amazing organization that works so hard for the children and their families. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are.
I truly can't thank everyone enough for all they have done. I'm one lucky teenager. But, I have a yearning to make a difference and the courage and confidence to do so. I can't stress enough how wonderful all the other contestants were and how hard we all worked. Thank you to Joan Cooper and Lou Barthold for putting on a wonderful pageant and making my moment so special. Thank you to my family for being as supportive as families come and always driving me wherever God calls me to be. Thank you to previous NJOT's who have given me so much advice in one week my head could burst. Thank you to the shore directors; Carol, Tony, Michael, Anne and Grammy for always seeing something in me that was big enough to never let me stop. And thank you to Kay, one of my favorite shore directors, for being the best, and my first local director. You gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed to take it to the next level. Thanks for never giving up on me. Thank you to New Jersey. I don't plan to let you down. I'm striving everyday in all my actions to make you proud. Keep your fingers crossed that MAOT this year is a Jersey girl. God Bless! Until next time…………….
So much love,
Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2013
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