Jennifer Schmidt, of Racine, is just one step away from becoming the new Miss America.
“We have a saying,” said Schmidt. “You have a better chance of having a son play in the Super Bowl than you do having a daughter compete in the Miss America competition.”
Schmidt beat those odds, along with 21 other competitors, to be crowned Miss Wisconsin 2021 at the finals of the annual Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Competition, Saturday, June 19, inside the Alberta Kimball Auditorium in Oshkosh.
She’ll compete in the 100th-anniversary edition of the Miss America competition this December in Uncasville, CT, after attending a celebration of the competition’s centenary anniversary there in September, along with the crown winners from the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“It’s really exciting,” said Schmidt. “It was just really incredible to be on the stage that night.
“I still don’t believe it,” said the 2014 graduate of The Prairie School who won the preliminary social impact and onstage question award en route to the title with the initiative she calls “Diabetes, YOU have the Control.”
She couldn’t have picked a better cause to support.
Schmidt’s platform to help prevent diabetes
Type 2 diabetes keeps the body from using insulin the way it should. It affects nearly 29 million people in the US alone.
The leading cause of type 2 diabetes in younger people is childhood obesity, although older people are still more likely to develop type 2. But diabetes hits home for Schmidt on a more personal level.
“My grandmother has always struggled with type 2 diabetes,” Schmidt explained. “My entire life, I’ve watched her have to monitor her blood sugar. I’ve watched her struggle with different health complications.
“It’s not only about what we have to do, but what we must do to prevent diabetes, and finally, I have something I can do about it.”
As Miss Wisconsin, she’ll spend the next year promoting and educating people all around the state about her initiative.
Tackling the disease head-on is nothing new for her.
Already through the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Organization, Schmidt spent eight years as a volunteer with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), serving as a liaison for the ADA and state of Wisconsin as a National Ambassador.
She also served as Manager of Donor Relations for the ADA in Wisconsin and Director of Donor Relations for Operation Not Alone.
But her passion and success in support of a worthy cause do not stand alone as the reason she was crowned Miss Wisconsin in 2021.
Schmidt’s journey to Miss Wisconsin
As part of this year’s competition, Schmidt also won the preliminary talent competition award with a jazz dance performance to Liza Minnelli’s “Maybe This Time.”
She couldn’t have picked a better song title.
“It was such a long time coming,” explained Schmidt, who grew up attending the Academy of Dance in Racine. “I started competing in this organization when I was 15-years-old. I started in the Miss Teen competition representing Miss Racine’s outstanding teen and just continued competing in the competitions.”
Schmidt was crowned Miss Racine in 2018 and qualified for the Miss Wisconsin competition three times before winning it all last week.
“You can’t hold your hometown title more than once, so they hold open competitions,” explained Schmidt, who won the Miss Rock River Valley crown to qualify for this year’s Miss Wisconsin competition.
Schmidt and the 21 women competing in this year’s Miss Wisconsin were crowned with their local titles at the beginning of 2020 but had nearly two years to prepare for the big night after the competition was postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really crazy how long I’ve been involved in this organization now. I actually would have aged out this year. I’m 25, which is the age limit, so to have won on my last attempt was really special.
“It was definitely a long time coming, but it has been really exciting and over the last 10 years I’ve earned over $13,000 in scholarships that have helped me pay for one year of my college education.”
The first-generation college graduate who earned her bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation/Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after also attending UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater earned $11,000 alone for winning the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Competition this year.
The road to Miss America
Now the real work begins.
“I’ve hit the ground running,” she said after making her first official appearance as Miss Wisconsin less than 12 hours after being crowned, when she attended the NTT IndyCar Series race at Road America in Elkhart Lake.
It couldn’t have been a better venue.
“After that I drove to Waukesha, back to Oshkosh and I’ll be going to Two Rivers, Hillsboro and Kenosha.”
And that’s just the beginning for Schmidt, who will be racing 20,000 miles around the state over the next year, making appearances in her official role as Miss Wisconsin – taking a little break in December to compete for the title of Miss America.
You can follow Schmidt’s travels around the state of Wisconsin or book her for an appearance on Instagram @MissAmericaWI or @MissWIOrg, or on Facebook at the Miss Wisconsin page or the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Organization page.
They say the fourth time’s a charm.
Maybe they don’t, but it sure was for Jennifer Schmidt.
“It all still seems so surreal,” she says. “But I’m loving every moment of it.”
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