‘IT’S JUST UNBELIEVABLE’

{child_byline}JOHN DeROSIER

Staff Writer

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OCEAN CITY — The newly crowned Miss New Jersey dipped her toes in the ocean Sunday for a photo shoot that was six years in the making.

Kaitlyn Schoeffel, 23, of Egg Harbor Township, accomplished her dream of becoming Miss New Jersey at the Ocean City Music Pier on Saturday night, after five previous attempts at the crown.

In those previous five years, Schoeffel finished as first runner-up, second runner-up, fourth runner-up, in the top 10 and left out of the top 10.

“It took a lot to be able to come back (for a sixth year),” Schoeffel said. “But I think it goes to show that if you keep trying and strive for your dreams, then you can do it.”

There won’t be much time to celebrate.

This week, Schoeffel will begin a summer-long sprint to the Miss America pageant that includes dozens of pages of paperwork, countless hours working out, spreading her platform and perfecting her talent before walking on the biggest stage of her career in September at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

She will do all this while performing the regular duties of Miss New Jersey, making appearances all around the state.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Schoeffel said. “I remember watching Miss America last year. I dreamed that I would be there one day, but I never really thought that it would happen.”

Schoeffel’s platform is called “Operation Empowerment,” a movement to provide disadvantaged children exposure to the arts. She will work to raise money for scholarships so kids can take dance lessons, voice lessons and acting lessons. After a few lessons, the children will use their talents and perform in areas around the community.

She also hopes to raise money to take the children to see live theater shows.

Her platform could become a national movement.

In September, she will compete to become Miss America, a title no Miss New Jersey has held since Suzette Charles in 1984. Charles represented the Garden State as Miss America for seven weeks in 1984 when Vanessa Williams was forced to resign after controversial pictures of her were published in Penthouse Magazine.

No Miss New Jersey has won the Miss America pageant since 1937.

If Schoeffel wins, she will receive the crown less than a mile from where she was born.

“I grew up going to the Miss America parade and the Miss New Jersey parade,” Schoeffel said. “I was born in Atlantic City and grew up five minutes away.”

Schoeffel would go on to attend Egg Harbor Township High School and Montclair State University.

Now, she will use her years of pageant experience to try to become one of the most recognizable faces in the country.

“I think the reason that I was able to do so well this year was that I just let go,” she said. “I stopped worrying and I tried to be as mindful and in-the-moment as I could and took everything in. I hope to take that mentality with me to Miss America.”

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Contact: 609-272-7260 JDeRosier@pressofac.com

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