|Teresa Scanlan: I can’t sum it up!|
|January 26, 2012 Jessica Mikoloyck|
GERING — The five words that Teresa Scanlan chose when asked to sum up her last year as Miss America 2011? “I can’t sum it up.” She also says that she can’t take any credit for her title or her successes of the past year. “My life is a collection of fingerprints from every person in the valley, every person who has been a part of my life; my family, my relatives, my friends, every person who has touched my life in some way.”
Teresa’s eyes light up as she begins to reflect on what brought her to the stage last year to compete for the Miss America crown. “Really, every person in the valley has had an impact; no, I have not met every single person, but I think they can all see their hand in my life because they make our community what it is, they make our towns what they are and that’s why I’ve been able to grow up here.”
Teresa has also learned a lot about herself. “I can push myself beyond what I thought possible. When you have things come up that challenge you, you learn that you can rise to the occasion and you learn what your limits really are and well, that you have no limits really!” Teresa continued, “If you never push yourself and you never try then you never realize what you are capable of. I think more than anything I realized my capabilities. There were so many times when I sat back and thought, how am I doing this, am I really doing this, can I do it, I am 17…but I am doing this!”
After the cameras stopped rolling and as the stage grew dark at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the now former Miss America celebrated with an after party and a late dinner with her family. Teresa attended church the next morning and then enjoyed a very relaxing Sunday afternoon at her hotel before returning back to her own home in Gering this week. But that doesn’t mean Teresa is taking a break. In her home she has an office full of things from this past year; mail, packages, shoes, clothing and many keepsakes that she has collected. When she got home it was so full that she couldn’t even get inside. “That has been my big project this week. Getting my life organized.”
Teresa can’t name just one or two of her favorite keepsakes from her year as Miss America. She has a collection of pins that she will put on her sash that is now almost full. She has collected many military coins, letters, newspaper articles, all things that people poured their hearts into while preserving her journey.
One of her more unique keepsakes is a sandcastle made from the sand of Lake Michigan. Teresa will go off to college in the fall. She laughed at the thought of carrying all of the keys to so many cities that she has been given. She has the key to Las Vegas, Nev. and the key to Wellfleet, Nebr., (population 65) and so many others that she was given as she travelled throughout the year.
One of her fonder memories of her visits this past year came from her visit to Wellfleet, Nebr. As her car came into town she was greeted by two kids waiting on horseback with a big welcome banner. They escorted her into town where a red carpet and podium were waiting for her, and presented her with the key to the city.
“I cry entirely too much!” Teresa said with a little giggle in her voice. “Events with the Children’s Hospital or with the military,” were the most touching, she explained. “There were so many new and different and emotional experiences.”
The events, special appearances and many projects don’t stop after passing on the crown to Miss Wisconsin. Calvin Jones, the composer of Whitewater Chop Sticks, created a compilation CD of his favorite works from the past 25 years. On that CD is Teresa’s version of Whitewater Chop Sticks that she recorded as well as a vocal piece that he composed just for her. It is the only vocal piece on the CD. That was just released and will be available for purchase at all of the fundraising events coming up in February.
An event scheduled for February 7, is a fundraiser that falls near and dear to Teresa’s heart. Teresa toured the Cirrus House this week and was able to visit the facilities and the great programs that they offer. She is very hopeful that this will be successful. “It is one of the only resources that we have in the community and that is why it is so important to support this.”
Mental illness is not a new subject or realm for Teresa. She became involved with mental illness after working with her platform, eating disorders. “Many people don’t realize that eating disorders are both a mental and physical illness. There are so many misconceptions when it comes to mental illness. It’s not just a choice or a habit or a lifestyle. If you can’t get past those first preconceptions and ideas, it is so hard to address further issues.”
In addition to her appearances in February happening here in our area, Teresa will be attending the West Point Ball in New York. There was a cadet who asked her to go and she accepted.
As this year gets going for Teresa, she also has four trips planned overseas in the months of May, June and July. She will be visiting Croatia-Sylvania, the Holy Land, Greece, Paris and Rome. Anyone can accompany Teresa on these trips (see www.missamerica.org for information), which will extend about a week to 10 days each.
Her family is from Croatia and Teresa is looking forward to retiring her high heels for a bit and traveling the world in something more comfortable. She will be spending some quiet time with her family in Croatia, which so many would agree, is well-deserved.
As Teresa wrapped up her final days as Miss America 2011, she wanted to be sure she left the women competing for the 2012 crown with something most memorable. As a gift to the 53 women who were competing, she removed 53 stones from the back of her crown and had each one set in a necklace. “Those women do what Miss America does every day, just at the state level. They reach all the little towns and communities that Miss America can’t reach. It’s like having 53 extra hands doing that work!” Teresa explained.
She presented the women her gift the last night of preliminary competition, explaining that on Saturday, only one would win but each one of them truly deserved it. Many tears flooded the eyes of the competitors as she explained her purpose behind her gift. “For many of those women, they have been dreaming of being Miss America since they were 3 years old, and that dream only came true for one. And that really, each one of those women deserves it.”
Teresa also shared an interesting statistic, “You are more likely to have a son play in the Super Bowl than a daughter that competes at Miss America.” It is truly an incredible feat to accomplish something so great, which is just standing on that stage in Las Vegas as a competitor.
Reflecting on the past year, Teresa didn’t hesitate when speaking about all the great big things that she learned or experienced. “I won’t think that anything is out of reach. There is nothing beyond what you can accomplish.”
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