Developed by the Miss America Organization, the Miss America program exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women and to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community. The program provides a forum for today's young women to express their viewpoints, talents and accomplishments to audiences during the telecast and to the public-at-large during the ensuing year. Almost all contestants have either received, or are in the process of earning, college or postgraduate degrees and utilize Miss America scholarship grants to further their educations.
To become Miss America, a contestant must first win a local competition and then compete to represent her state, a process requiring personal commitment, hard work and talent. A woman may compete at the state level more than once, but may only compete in the national Miss America competition one time. More than twelve thousand women participate each year in the local and state events, culminating in the selection of 52 national finalists who vie for the Miss America title. Tens of thousands of volunteers organize the local and state preliminary competitions, promoting community involvement throughout the United States and furthering scholarship and achievement among young women in their communities.
Miss America and the state titleholders partner with numerous corporate sponsors to raise funds for civic and charitable organizations tied to their platform issues. These corporate sponsors become involved with the Miss America program not only on a financial level, but also on both philosophical and personal levels.
Rich in history and social significance, the Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization that has maintained a tradition for many decades of empowering American women to achieve their personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which to express their opinions, talent and intelligence.
The Miss America Organization is one of the nation's leading achievement programs and the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance.
In the 1940s, the Organization enlisted the support of the national Jaycees Organization to assist with state and local competitions, giving them a decidedly community-service oriented focus.
In 1989, the Miss America Organization founded the platform concept, which requires each contestant to choose an issue about which she cares deeply and that is of relevance to our society. Once chosen, Miss America and the state titleholders use their stature to address community-service organizations, business and civic leaders, the media and others about their platform issues. Since 1989, Miss America titleholders have appeared at thousands of public speaking engagements and charitable events to generate awareness for a variety of causes, including homelessness, HIV/AIDS prevention, domestic violence, diabetes awareness, character education, and literacy.
In 1994, the Organization provided its first National Community-Service Award of $5,000. All community-service winners at the state level may apply for this national grant even if they have not won their state titles. Scholarship America (formerly known as Citizens’ Scholarship Foundation of America) administers the National Community Service Award.
Since 1997, Miss America participants nationwide have taken part in Make a Difference Day. Local and state titleholders, volunteers and Miss America make a difference through community service initiatives in conjunction with the Points of Light Foundation and USA Weekend.
In 2000, state and local contestants collectively participated in 12,384 community-service projects, dedicating a total of 571,177 hours and raising millions of dollars for worthy causes.
In 1954, during the golden era of television, the Miss America competition was broadcast live for the first time. That broadcast broke viewership records of the day with 39 percent of the television audience (27 million viewers) watching the Miss America telecast.
The Miss America telecast is the fourth longest-running live event in television history. It has been broadcast live at one time or another by all three of the country's major television networks.