Miss America Will Be First to Reign for 2 Years Due to Pandemic: 'I Better Be a Jeopardy Question'
"As someone who is a nontraditional competitor in the Miss America organization ... it's kind of on-brand for me to do it this way," Camille Schrier says
Schrier, who was crowned Miss America in December, is set to make history as she becomes the first woman to hold the title for two years after the organization announced that the 2021 competition would be postponed due to the impact of the pandemic.
"I realized now that I'm probably going to be a Jeopardy question," Schrier, 24, jokes to PEOPLE. "It's definitely incredible. As someone who is a nontraditional competitor in the Miss America organization ... it's kind of on-brand for me to do it this way."
Schrier previously made history when she performed the first-ever science demonstration in the talent portion of the Miss America competition.
Since winning, the PharmD student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy has made it her goal to promote drug safety and abuse prevention, while also championing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
"I'm just kind of embracing that I don't really do anything the regular way, and I think that that's important for young people to see, especially because sometimes we feel like we have to be like everybody else," she says. "Just do your own thing, create your own path."
"It's really kind of cool," adds Schrier. "I better be a Jeopardy question now, I'm just saying!"
Schrier, whose work has been centered on in-person engagements, says her first year as Miss America was nothing like she ever imagined, which forced her to get creative in order to continue spreading her messages.
"This isn't a situation that Miss America has ever been faced with," she explains. "This is a hundred-year-old organization, and I'm really the first person who's been faced with this. How can I adapt? How can I figure out how to bring the work that I was doing on the ground, online?"
Through that thinking, Schrier teamed up with 3M to help launch Science at Home, a free online program that provides STEM-focused video content for teachers and students ages 6 to 12.
On the platform, Schrier demonstrates two science experiments, including her iconic "elephant's toothpaste" demo — the same one she performed prior to winning Miss America — which shows the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.
"I saw a need ... and I wanted to help solve that problem for those parents and for the teachers. And then 3M felt the same way," she shares. "I think that I'm alleviating some of the stress from the teachers, to be able to take over their classroom for a science lesson."
While it's certainly not the same as meeting these students in the classroom, Schrier says she's found an "unforeseen blessing" in staying home.
"I think that it gives me a longer opportunity to make an impact," she explains. "With these online video programs and educational content platforms, I can actually kind of reach more students than I would have in person."
"I can quite literally be in a thousand different places at once," she adds. "It's been a really cool opportunity that I would have never had before."
Schrier also believes that her virtual lessons — in addition to her advocacy on drug safety and abuse prevention — are more important now than they've ever been.
"We see STEM in the news every day [while] we're fighting COVID," she notes. "I think it's incredibly important that all students recognize why STEM is important, even if it's not something that they choose as a career path. It touches every single piece of what we do."
When it comes to drug usage amid the pandemic, Schrier notes how there's a correlation with mental health and adds, "We lose somewhere around 70,000 [people] to drug overdoses every single year. This is a huge problem."
"It's something that I'm very, very passionate about and I'm using this time to educate [through webinars]," she adds. "This is a hard time for everyone, and whether or not you have a mental health diagnosis, it's important to know that this is going to end eventually... and we're all going through this."
While she hopes to eventually have that face-to-face interaction with others down the road, Schrier says she can't help but feel like she was meant to be in this role right now.
"I feel like there was some kind of divine intervention that made me have to be in this place at this time," she says. "I did not decide to compete in the Miss America organization until the end of March of 2019. I was not a little girl that always dreamed of being Miss America."
"I'm grateful for that because it allows me to really adapt to this year in a different way because I had no expectations of what this year was going to be," she continues. "It wasn't a dream that was finally coming to fruition, it was this job that I got hired to do. Now I get to do it to the best of my ability with the cards that I've been dealt."
"I think that that's who I am as a human being, trying to stay positive and do what I can," she adds. "It's been a whirlwind ... [but] I stay true in that, knowing that it's all going to be for a good reason."
As of Monday, there have been more than 1.8 million cases and at least 104,833 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times.
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