First-year Wofford student Taylor Hanna Fitch is the reigning Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. While in town for the Miss South Carolina pageant, the Anderson, S.C. native stopped by her future home away from home to speak about her experience and her future at Wofford.
How early were you involved in pageants?
I had never done pageants in my life before this one. I was a tomboy growing up. I liked riding four wheelers around in the mud. I have a brother and four male cousins. I’m the only girl in my family. I decided that I wanted to go to medical school and I needed scholarship money. The Miss America organization provides more scholarships than any other organization. And now, as the reigning Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I have been fortunate enough to have been provided $35,000 to go to college. That’s how I started getting interested in it, and of course it has progressed since then. I’ve had more opportunities doing this at the age of 18 than I’ve had doing anything else in my life. What was your first impression of the pageant experience?
I was overwhelmed at first. I had never worn makeup in my life. I didn’t know how to roll my hair. I had no idea what I was doing. I was very much like the Sandra Bullock character in that movie Miss Congeniality. I’m not the graceful type at all. I just knew I was going to be the one who fell down all the stairs. But doing it has taught me a lot about myself. The way you present yourself and how you look is how people perceive you, and that’s something that I’ve learned. I’ve learned to be empowered within myself and to be confident. I’m sure my first impression on everyone was nothing like what it is now. I’ve changed a lot. Hopefully, I’m not the awkward teenager I once was.What is it like being Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
It’s the little sister organization to Miss America, so I basically do everything that Miss America does except on a high school level. On weekdays I went to school like everyone else, but on weekends I would travel across country. I’ve been to 23 states now. I’ve spoken to a lot of children and adults basically promoting my own platform, which is overcoming physical challenges – Heart Mind and Hands – for special needs children. Also the national platform, which is the Children’s Miracle Network. I speak on behalf of both those organizations. I get to speak to kids, encouraging and empowering them to have a role model besides what the media puts out there. I know I have a lot of little girls who want to be in my shoes, so I try to remember that those little eyes are watching me at all times and so I try to be a good role model. What is the farthest you have traveled and what parts of the country have you been able to see?
I am going to California in the second week of July. I’ll be in Los Angeles. I’ve been to Montana. I’ve been to Minnesota in February. Most snow I’ve ever seen in my life. I went snowmobiling and ice fishing. Travel has allowed me to see a lot of things you don’t get to see in South Carolina. What made you consider Wofford College?
I had never really considered Wofford until this past year. But the first time I talked to anybody from here and the first time I set foot on campus I just knew it was where I was supposed to be. I wanted a smaller campus, some place where I would know the people and the professors. Plus I want to go to medical school. Duke has always been my goal, and I wanted some place that would push me with a rigorous academic schedule and challenge me to go farther than I have ever gone before. And Wofford seemed like the kind of place where if I walked down the sidewalk I’d see someone I knew, unlike the bigger schools. Wofford encourages its students to get out and see the world. Was that also a factor?
I love traveling. I have become very travel savvy. When I first started this I had only been on a plane once in my life. Now it’s like second nature to go through security, find the airport restaurants, get on a plane…all of that. My goal right now is to go to Jordan. I want to learn Arabic. That’s just a culture that I’m interested in. It has nothing to do with what I want to be when I grow up, it’s just something that interests me a lot. I hope that being travel savvy already will carry over.Your roommate will also have pageant experience, right?
My roommate, Erin Frost, was the overall talent winner at the same pageant. We can’t wait to room together.