Today, as I leave the US Capitol Building, I am very excited to announce along with our Chairman & CEO Sam Haskell, III the new Miss America Foundation STEM Scholarship through the Miss America Foundation that will further cement our leadership in educational opportunities for young women.
We thought moving back to our Atlantic City roots in September would be the most exciting part for our 12,000 participants each year. What better way to commemorate our return than with what we do best -- funding scholars -- helping women secure countless professional opportunities that a STEM education ignites. When Miss America began, it was a bathing beauty contest to extend the life of summer past Labor Day. That was then. This is now. Today, Miss America is about service and scholarship.
I traveled 20,000 miles each month this year to spread the word that young women need to make their own dreams come true through a good education. I have the opportunity to talk about the importance of STEM education and to share our organization's efforts in advocating for the importance of education.
The Miss America Foundation is the world's largest provider of assistance to young women, totaling more than $45 million in scholarships each year. 12,000 young women, in towns and cities across this country, participate in this program each year and each one who participates in Miss America receives scholarships that they then use for their education. I am testament to the strength of the scholarship program, as I have earned over $50,000 to finish my college education after my year of service.
Recently, I was so pleased to see Sharon Stone's interview when we were both invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner in April. Sharon praised the Miss America program and told the interviewer that the only reason she was able to attend college was through a local pageant scholarship. Our scholarships are for medical school, military awareness, performing arts and now we can add STEM to that unique list.
As thousands of high-school seniors have now proudly counted themselves among the graduating class of 2013. For many students, whether from big cities or small towns, the possibilities seem endless. But they are also faced with the reality of affording a college education. As higher education costs soar across the country, a generation of young Americans will be forced to make personal and financial decisions that can impact their lives for decades as they make their college decisions.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who I will meet with next month during the Let's Read, Let's Move event, has stated that while a generation ago the United States had the highest college graduation rate in the world, today it ranks 12th among developed countries in the percentage of young adults with college degrees.
As Miss America 2013, I have been a strong advocate for children and now would like to represent students from my generation who want to make America stronger through education. Through our scholarship program, I hope to continue to help young women achieve their dreams through the power of the Miss America Foundation.
Please join me in advocating for young women to pursue a college education and make their lives and their families stronger for the future.
For more information, go to www.missamerica.org.