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Last week, Wausau, Wis. native Grace Stanke took the crown, winning Miss America 2023. Now she’s on a mission to empower others and promote her social impact initiative Clean Energy, Cleaner Future, on the national level.

The 20-year-old senior nuclear engineer student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison didn’t get to this spot overnight. It started back in March at Preservation Hall, 740 Lake Ave., in Racine when she won the local Wisconsin Sweeps title of Miss Badgerland.

“The old saying goes…’every Miss America starts out on a local stage,'” said the Wisconsin Sweeps Director, Caitlin Morrall Machol, former Miss Wisconsin USA 2007.

From there, Stanke proceeded to the Miss Wisconsin competition held at the Alberta Kimball Auditorium, 375 N Eagle St., in Oshkosh, in June 2022. Winning the competition, she handed over her Miss Badgerland title and began serving as Miss Wisconsin.

After months of preparation, and years involved in the Miss America Organization (MAO), she progressed to the Miss America competition, for the second time. The competition, which is no longer referred to as a pageant, took place at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and was live-streamed exclusively on 

The first time Stanke made it to the national level was when she held the title of Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen in 2017. She is the Miss Wisconsin Organization’s first candidate to hold both the Outstanding Teen and Miss Wisconsin titles. While she did not go on to win the national title of Outstanding Teen in 2017, she achieved her goal – the second time around – to become a national figure.

She continues the legacy of former Miss-Wisconsin-turned-Miss-America, along with Laura Kaeppeler (2012) and Terry Meeuwsen (1973). This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the first Miss Wisconsin, Meeuwsen, to win Miss America.

Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke
From Miss Badgerland to Miss America 2023, Grace Stanke has come a long way and will continue to promote her platform of Clean Energy, Cleaner Future in the new year. – Credit: Grace Stanke Instagram page

“Being crowned Miss America 2023 is impossible to put into words – it is a dream come true and has literally changed my life in an instant. I am so grateful for the opportunity to compete alongside so many inspiring, brilliant, talented women. I hope to live up to the impeccable legacy of Miss America, serving as a positive role model for women of all ages and my community. It’s been an honor to represent the great state of Wisconsin and I look forward to the opportunity to change the world through my social impact initiative Clean Energy, Cleaner Future on the national stage.”

Grace Stanke, Miss America 2023

The Miss America Competition

The competition took place from Dec. 12 through 15.

Following three action-packed nights showcasing talent, interview skills, and social impact achievements, Stanke was left speechless, in front of a standing ovation.

MAO is the nation’s oldest women’s competition and the leading provider of scholarships for women in the United States.

Stanke was awarded a $50,000 cash scholarship, the iconic Austrian Crystal emblazoned crown, along with the life-changing title of Miss America 2023. 

In total, she earned a cumulative $68,900 in scholarship assistance through the Miss Wisconsin and Miss America competitions and will use her national title to continue advocating her platform of Clean Energy, Cleaner Future. She believes that America needs to convert to zero-carbon energy sources and her social impact focuses on breaking down misconceptions surrounding nuclear power.

Stanke won the talent scholarship during night two of the preliminary talent competition, with her classical violin performance.

Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke
Miss America 2023 Grace Stanke performs in the talent portion of the competition. – Credit: Miss America Organization

Earlier in the competition week, the Miss America Organization also awarded scholarships to another Preliminary Talent Winner, in addition to the award given to Stanke, and two Social Impact Pitch Winners during its preliminary competitions. The organization also announced the Non-Finalist Talent Winners, Non-Finalist Social Impact Pitch Award, and Miss Congeniality Scholarship.

The 2022 Scholarship Award winners were also unveiled for Women in Business, STEM, Social Impact Initiative, Equity and Justice, Military Awareness, Allman Medical, and Forever Miss America as part of the 2023 Miss America competition. 

2022 Finalist Scholarship Award Winners

Over $500,000 in scholarship assistance was awarded to the 51 candidates this week; a historic high.

  • 1st Runner-up: Taryn Delanie Smith, Miss New York, Received a $25,000 scholarship
  • 2nd Runner-up: Avery Bishop, Miss Texas, received a $20,000 scholarship
  • 3rd Runner-up: Elizabeth Lynch, Miss West Virginia, received a $15,000 scholarship
  • 4th Runner-up: Kelsey Hollis, Miss Georgia, received a $15,000 scholarship
  • Finalist: Elizabeth Hallal, Miss Indiana, received an $8,500 scholarship
  • Finalist: Heather Renner, Miss Nevada, received an $8,500 scholarship
  • Finalist: Sophia Takla, Miss Oregon, received an $8,500 scholarship
  • Finalist: Elizabeth Nies, Miss Ohio, received an $8,500 scholarship
  • Finalist: Lauren Teruya, Miss Hawaii, received an $8,500 scholarship
  • America’s Choice Finalist: Monica Nia Jones, Miss Illinois, received a $5,000 scholarship 

“On behalf of the Miss America Organization, we congratulate our newly crowned Miss America 2023, Grace Stanke,” said Shantel Krebs, Miss America Organization Board Chair. “Since 1921, The Miss America Organization has been leading by example as one of the most recognizable names empowering young women through education, professional development, advocacy and community service. The role of Miss America is not of vanity, but rather community impact and contribution to the crown. Grace has strongly demonstrated her abilities and there is no doubt in our mind she – and all of this year’s class of candidates – are destined for greatness.”

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