Brandi Lynn Burkhardt has parlayed more than 1,000 hours of community service, a 3.75 grade point average and a charming smile into the title America's Miss T.E.E.N.
The 16-year-old Chesapeake High School junior won the pageant, along with thousands of dollars in scholarships and prizes, earlier this month in Kansas City, Kan.
"That was such a great feeling," she recalled. "When you've worked so hard all year, you feel a sense of relief and self-confidence."
Ms. Burkhardt, who easily won the state contest in Ocean City in August, said participating in the pageant has fulfilled a lifelong goal.
"It was just something I always wanted to do since I was a kid," she said. "I figured that if I was going to do it, I would just give it my best."
She spent her sophomore year practicing interviewing skills with her mother and taking voice lessons. She worked for more than 1,000 hours last year with the Special Olympics, the elderly and with developmentally disabled youth at Marley Glenn Special School. And she studied, because this pageant is not one based on appearance.
For the judges of the Miss T.E.E.N. pageant, scholastic achievement, volunteer community service, personal interviews, formal presentations, and speech or talent presentation count more than looks.
The title of the pageant, which bills itself as "the quality pageant for quality girls," is an acronym for Teens Encouraging Excellence Nationally.
"We want more than just beautiful young ladies. We're looking for the well-rounded young lady," said Dedie Campbell, a former contestant and director of the Maryland pageant. "We think that outer beauty is just an outgrowth of the natural beauty they already have with their scholastic achievement and community service."
Practiced, polished, and poised, Ms. Burkhardt wore a pink business suit with navy trim for her interview at the pageant in Kansas City on July 1. For her talent presentation, she sang the title tune from "The Sound of Music" in the soprano voice that got her a spot on the award-winning Chesapeake High vocal ensemble.
L When the announcer finally called "Ms. Maryland" to step for
ward and receive the crown, her father "had to leave the room to scream," Ms. Burkhardt recalled.
"He didn't want to embarrass me," she said.
Along with the honor, Ms. Burkhardt, a Pasadena resident, won a four-year tuition scholarship to Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., a $1,000 cash scholarship, and about $20,000 in other scholarships and prizes.
According to Ms. Campbell, Ms. Burkhardt will spend the next year traveling throughout the country, representing the pageant in parades and community service events. One of her first appearances will be at the Maryland Miss T.E.E.N. pageant Aug. Girls interested in entering this year's Maryland Miss T.E.E.N. pageant can contact Ms. Campbell at 626-0119.