Auburn High School's Jessica Baeder, 17, won the title of Miss America's Outstanding Teen Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
Baeder began competing in pageants at the age of 15 and has only ever participated in the Miss America program.
Previously crowned Miss Alabama's 2016 Oustanding Teen before moving on to winning the country's title, Baeder now passes her state title on to Lauren Bradford, the new Miss Alabama's Outstanding Teen. Bradford is a 17-year-old senior from Gulf Shores.
Baeder said she worked hard every day leading up to the pageant.
"I was working out every day for the fitness portion and staying up with my current events for the interviews," Baeder said.
With 51 girls in the competition, Baeder was prepared for not only the fitness portion of the pageant but also the eight-minute interview, evening wear, talent and on stage question.
During the preliminary portion of the pageant, Baeder was asked if she thought college was for everyone.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
"I think it is for a lot of people, but it is getting more and more expensive," Baeder said. "Organizations like the Miss America program is a great way for young women to obtain scholarship opportunities but if someone comes from a home where they don't have a lot of money to pay for college, there are many other ways to find success through jobs right out of high school or a career technical school."
The Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant provides $30,000 in scholarship money to their title winners.
An upcoming senior, Baeder is a member of the National Honor Society, Mathematics Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and is involved in the debate team at Auburn High School.
With a 4.2 GPA, she is currently looking at two very different options for college she said.
"One is going to West Point Military Academy because I'm really interested in the military and I either want to do that through a service academy or go enlisted," Baeder said. "Now that I have won this scholarship money through the competition, I'm really given the privilege to go wherever I want so I'm also looking at NYU or USC Capitol Hill."
Baeder also has received full tuition scholarships to Alabama, Auburn, Troy, Montevallo, Jacksonville State and Wallace State Community College.
Baeder's interest in the military stems from a family history in service.
"My grandparent's emigrated from Germany. My grandfather came from a sponsor, and the military was his career and what really provided him to make a living," Baeder said. "I've always grown up around it; my father was enlisted as well. I've always really admired the people who are in the military and what they stand for."
Baeder's platform during the competition was Healthy Food for All where she shared the message of how to eat healthily and realistically in today's society.
"Not only am I discussing what it means to be healthy but also lowering food insecurity in not only my state but across in the country," Baeder said. "I'm able to to that with partnerships with 4H and the YMCA."
Baeder said it was incredible being able to represent her state, Alabama.
"I, fortunately, come from a state that is very supportive of the organization," Baeder said.
"I think that pageants have a negative stigma attached to them, but this isn't a pageant, it is a scholarship organization," Baeder said. "It just exemplifies the qualities in a young woman where she can develop her talents and public speaking skills along with her passions and the opportunity to touch people through that."
Baeder said her win still hasn't sunk in yet.
"People ask me how it feels to be Miss America's Outstanding Teen and I honestly I forget until people say it," Baeder joked. "I don't feel any different, but I heard it's supposed to hit me in the next few days."
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman