A self-proclaimed “nerdy, camp-loving” Scout competing in this week’s Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition wants to prove that Scouting and pageants are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, says 17-year-old Rachel Perry, the two complement each other wonderfully.
Rachel, a Tenderfoot Scout from Troop 333 of the Narragansett Council, says both programs have “provided great mentors who have encouraged me to learn, have fun and live life as an adventure.”
Earlier this month, Rachel and her troop won a fire-building competition at Yawgoog Scout Reservation in Rhode Island. This week, she’ll represent Massachusetts in another competition: the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant.
Fifty-two young women ages 13 to 17, representing every state plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, will compete in the pageant, which starts Tuesday in Orlando, Fla. Contestants receive at least $1,000 in scholarship money, with the winner getting $30,000 for college.
The young women will answers questions, showcase a talent, don evening wear and discuss their service platform. Rachel, who can play 12 different instruments, chose a platform promoting the use of music therapy to help patients with traumatic brain injuries.
A balancing act
With summer camp and a national pageant, Rachel’s July is packed. But her school year is even busier.
She’s ranked first in her class, is a multisport athlete, excels in math (“I am a closet math geek,” she says with pride), plays in her high school’s jazz and concert bands, serves on the student council, and is active in her church. Somehow, she still finds time to attend Scout meetings and troop campouts. She’s finishing up her requirements for the Second Class rank as I write this.
“Scouting, by its very nature, teaches organization and prioritization,” Rachel says. “To balance all these activities, I do my best to practice time management, giving everything a time block in my schedule.”
Such a full schedule does result in some unavoidable, but harmless, consequences.
“It isn’t unusual that I show up for a camping trip in full hair and makeup,” she says.
A supportive troop
Any time I blog about a Scout juggling multiple extracurricular activities — which these days describes nearly every Scout — there’s a common thread. All of these Scouts are blessed with strong support from their families, troop leaders and fellow Scouts. They know that activities like sports and music and pageants don’t detract from Scouting; they enhance it.
That’s certainly the case for Rachel, who has been participating in both Venturing and the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program since she was 14.
When answering judges’ questions at pageants, she often points to her Scouting experience as a transformative part of her life.
“In one of my interviews, the judges asked what the basis of a good friendship is,” Rachel says. “As I explained how the Scout Law was a good framework for healthy friendships, the judges were surprised that I could recite the Scout Law.”
In April, when Rachel was crowned Miss Massachusetts’ Outstanding Teen, her entire troop was in the crowd cheering her on.
And at summer camp this month, her troopmates helped her prepare for the national pageant by peppering her with interview questions.
“All the girls in the troop have been extremely supportive,” Rachel says. “It seems like we’re all going through this together.”
A believer in Scouting
Rachel officially became a Scouts BSA member this year when the BSA opened all of its programs to young women. But she’s been around, unofficially, for most of her life.
She watched her older brothers become Eagle Scouts and joined them on some of their high-adventure outings.
“I’ve even watched merit badge classes,” she says. “So it’s great to finally get credit for my time in Scouting.”
Now she’s a full-time participant in all of the things that make Scouting appeal to young people like her: incredible adventures, hands-on leadership experience and lifelong friendships.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
“Scouting provides life skills, just like Miss America’s Outstanding Teen,” she says. “Both programs share the important skills of leadership, community service and public speaking.”
What’s next for Rachel
The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant begins Tuesday, July 23, with the finals set for Saturday, July 27.
If Rachel ends up winning the national crown, she’ll spend a year traveling the country. She’ll deliver her message of positivity and confidence to girls everywhere.
“I love to learn the skills that Scouts has to offer,” Rachel says. “so I would participate [in Scouting] as my new schedule would allow me.”
After that, the National Merit Semifinalist will attend Cornell University, where she has been accepted for deferred enrollment in fall 2020.