Miss New Jersey hopes to encourage underprivileged children - NBC40.net

Miss New Jersey hopes to encourage underprivileged children

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In just two days one lucky lady will be crowned Miss America 2014. Here in Atlantic City, where the pageant was created, many are hoping that winner will be Miss New Jersey.

For Cara McCollum, the pageant life is a fairly new adventure. Only breaking into the circuit one year ago to become Miss New Jersey. "The Miss New Jersey Organization for me, gave me an actual platform to stand on."

McCollum dived into the pageant world, not to wear dresses and swimsuits, but to use the crown in hopes of making a difference. "It's a whole lot easier to get into a classroom and the library with the crown on your head." The 21 year old says she can't live without her books, and wants to help underprivileged children learn how to read.

"If I can just get a handful of kids who love to read, and I can foster that love of reading then my job will have been worth while."

McCollum, who hails for Arkansas, moved to the Garden State when she was 18 years old to attend Princeton University. While she may not have been born and raised here she says her experiences since moving to Princeton have made her a true Jersey Girl.

"We went through horrible times with Hurricane Sandy and to see the resilience of New Jersians and what it means to be Jersey Strong is something that I've embodied my whole life without ever being Jersey Strong." And whether she is awarded the crown or not on Sunday, she says because she is Jersey Strong, she will achieve her goal of becoming a writer and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

But if she beats the odds and does win, it's a moment McCollum says she will welcome with open arms. "Incredibly overwhelmed and grateful. If I did win I would miss being Miss New Jersey but at the end of the day it would open up an incredible opportunity for the rest of my life."

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