Growing up, kids often have the wildest ambitions. Whether wealthy athlete or brain surgeon or the first astronaut to land on Mars, the creative minds of children introduce wild ideas that ultimately don’t pan out as they develop into teenagers because they eventually find something else to occupy their ambitions. However, when Jeanette Morelan decided as a young girl that she wanted to be the President of the United States, she locked out any distractions because she absolutely wants to be the President. And as her time winds down as the 2010 Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, Jeanette’s path is laid out before her thanks to a strong support system, plentiful MAOT scholarships, and a bevy of new friends she’s made this past year—all of them hopefully registered voters in 2039.
Pageantry magazine: Talk about your year in review. How has your life changed since you were crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
Jeanette Morelan: Words can’t even begin to describe how amazing this year has been for me and how incredibly I’ve changed. It’s really been an opportunity for me to see the power of my platform and the power of one. The goal of my platform is to encourage people to dream, to believe in their dreams and to act on their dreams. This year has really been a dream come true for me, being able to travel all across the nation. I’ve been to the White House, I performed on the Miss America stage, and I’ve been able to speak and perform in front of more than 33 million people, which is absolutely incredible, because as much as it’s a dream come true for me, I’m able to inspire them. It’s been such a wonderful year promoting my platform and working with the Children’s Miracle Network and other organizations.
PM: What was the highlight of your visit to the White House? Most of us have never been there, and most of us have never had a personalized, let’s say, backstage tour.
JM: It was really such an honor to be able to visit the White House and it was such a tangible expression of a dream. Being there just renewed my passion for pursuing that dream. It gave me chills, it was incredible. We got to see absolutely everything. The rear admiral who took us there is in charge of everything at the White House and he took us everywhere. We got to see the bowling alley. We went upstairs to see the pastry kitchen. But one of the things that was my favorite was being able to be in the theater and actually sit in the President’s chair, and realize that someday I could be sitting in that chair. What was great, too, was being able to talk to all of the staff—the cleaning staff and the chefs—and when I told them that my dream was to run for President of the United States in 2040, they said, “We’ll be honored to serve you then, Madam President.” So it was amazing, I’m so grateful.
PM: How has Children’s Miracle Network impacted your life this past year?
JM: While I was becoming Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, my brother John was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 13- years old. It’s a disease that made him have his colon removed and he’s had four different surgeries. He was actually staying at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which is a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, so we really got to see how the funds from CMN played into his life. They have a lot of family centers that are supported by the funds from Children’s Miracle Network. Being able to take that story, and how important it is to have that encouragement provided by CMN, and being able to visit hospitals all across the nation and thank people for their support has been amazing, because it wasn’t just something you heard about. It was something that is actually happening in my life. Seeing the power of Children’s Miracle Network was a great opportunity. My brother’s doing a lot better now and he’s truly a miracle child.
PM: A lot of people your age have never experienced what you’ve experienced at your age already. What have you learned about yourself?
JM: I’ve learned a lot about myself, because, honestly, when you have a dream, it doesn’t matter if it’s to become Miss America’s Outstanding Teen or to get good grades in school, you’ll have a lot of doubts. You think, This is a great dream, but I’m not sure if I can do it. I had some of those doubts when I was working to become Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and even during my year. But then I realized that with the help of all the people of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization, and with the help of my family and friends, I was able to serve this year and make it amazing. What I have learned about myself is that I do have the power to accomplish anything I set my mind to. That’s really what I want other kids to learn from my year. You’re never too young, it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are. You can accomplish those dreams if you believe in yourself and you keep working. I really got to see the message of my platform manifest through my year. I grew in my communication skills. I never thought I’d be able to get on a plane by myself or how to pack my things, and there were so many things during the year that I really grew from.
PM: What do you think you’re going to miss the most about being Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
JM: One of the things that was most important to me wasn’t being able to wear the big crown or going on photoshoots or being able to visit new places—although that was fun. What really hit home for me was being able to meet so many different people from all across the nation, people who are so warm, friendly and genuine, and it really helped me discover what a great nation we live in. Being able to connect with so many people, and being able to inspire them and be inspired by them was amazing. I’m really going to miss being able to meet so many new people and make new friends, but I know ‘ll be able to do that in anything in my life.
PM: What does the future hold for Jeanette Morelan?
JM: One of the great things about Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in that it’s a huge scholarship opportunity, so I’m really excited to be able to pursue my next couple of years in high school and then go off to college with that scholarship money. Miss America’s Outstanding Teen has paid over $300,000 in scholarships to date. I’m also going to pursue my music career, as I sing and play the guitar, and I’ll hopefully become Miss America someday. Then after that it’s the White House. I have a lot of dreams in my future and after this year I’ve learned that nothing is impossible.
PM: Speaking of Miss America, you’re the little sister of Miss America. Have you had any time to interact with Caressa Cameron?
JM: Caressa and I were both at the cherry blossom parade, so Caressa and I got a chance to be together, and Caressa, Katie Stam, and I all keep in touch through emails and texting. I’m really close with them, because we’re all so busy, but we’re busy in different places.
PM: What advice do you have for your successor?
JM: I would definitely encourage them to take the opportunity. When I started to consider going for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I was a 14-year-old girl, who didn’t really know anything about pageants and was more interested in video games than walking in heels. But I decided to pursue that dream of mine, and now it’s changed me in a way that I can’t even begin to explain. It really is helping you realize the leader inside of yourself and the power of a dream. When you’re able to make a difference in the lives of others, that’s when you really discover your purpose. I think that everyone’s hope is to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization is truly a way to be a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a huge nationwide opportunity, and I really encourage people to get involved in it. As for my successor, I just really wish her the best of luck, and I would tell her to cherish every moment, because it goes by so fast, but it’s an amazing opportunity.
[To hear the complete interview with Jeanette Morelan, please click Pageantry PodCasts.]