"It is faith that got me through this," the third-place contestant says

By Aaron Parsley and Michele Stueven
Updated November 24, 2010 01:25 PM
Adam Larkey/ABC

Bristol Palin is happy with her third-place finish on Dancing with the Stars.

But it hasn’t been easy for the Alaska native, 20, who finished season 11 behind Kyle Massey and winner Jennifer Grey. Palin’s run in the ballroom competition was plagued with controversy because, despite consistently lower scores from the judges, fans voted her through week after week. There was even a frightening moment when a threatening package arrived at the CBS studios where the show is broadcast.

“It is faith that got me through this and just praying all the time and just relying on God and knowing that He is on our side and we’ll get through this,” Palin told PEOPLE after Monday’s finale.

Palin says she learned a lot from the experience – and not just about dancing. “Just persevere, have confidence in whatever you do and be willing to go try new things,” she said. “I’ve grown so much as a person.”

But now that the competition is over, it’s time to celebrate. Said her partner Mark Ballas: “We’re getting on the private jet with the rest of the couples and we’re going to have a party.”