Why Miss America found her niche at a conservative college
The 2011 Miss American winner is now a sophomore at the small, conservative Patrick Henry College. Teresa Scanlan is setting her sights on Harvard Law School and the US presidency.
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During her year as Miss America, she began to feel depressed and, at times, even suicidal. The depression continued during her freshman year, she said, when she found her coursework grueling, with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. She earned a 3.75 grade-point average, but was disappointed because she had set a goal of a 3.9 or higher, which she feels she needs to get accepted into Harvard Law School.Skip to next paragraph
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She reached out to her parents for help during her spring semester, and she's now taking fewer classes and worrying less about others' expectations.
"I'm finally starting to let go of some of the stress, some of the responsibility," she said.
While she loves her school, she said she has occasionally received criticism from some there who feel the Miss America pageant, particularly the swimsuit competition, is not compatible with a Christian lifestyle because it shows too much skin or objectifies women. Scanlan respectfully disagrees.
"I have never violated my conscience. I was never compromising my morals," she said. "For myself, I have never believed it's wrong for a female to wear a swimsuit that would show the same amount of skin a man. It's a bit of a double standard."
The school's founder and chancellor, Mike Farris, also said he received sporadic complaints that Scanlan's status as a Miss America was supposedly contrary to the school's code and values.
"I don't view getting into the pageant world to be incompatible with Christian values," said Farris — who made his name as a lawyer defending homeschooler families.
Farris never had any doubts that Scanlan would be a good ambassador for the school. Farris sensed she could be a starter on Patrick Henry's Moot Court team, which Farris coaches and regularly wins national championships.
"She's very bright, a great communicator," Farris said, noting she placed third in a regional in Moot Court championships as a freshman. "Yeah, no doubt I expect a national championship out of her."
Kira Clark, a Moot Court teammate of Scanlan's and now a roommate, described Scanlan as "a caring, incredibly ambitious, smart, compassionate person who puts her friends first."
On the small campus, she said students don't dwell on the fact that Scanlan was Miss America.
"We see her as a sister we can be proud of, rather than a celebrity we can be taking advantage of," Clark said.
Despite her plans to reduce stress, Scanlan remains ambitious. On her LinkedIn profile, she lists herself, among other things, as "2028 presidential candidate." She would be 35, the constitutional minimum to serve as president.
Farris, who designed the school with the idea of launching Christian conservatives into the public sphere, said Scanlan and many other Patrick Henry students set such goals and he encourages them to aim high.
"If they mess up and only get to be governors and senators, I'll live with it," Farris said.
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