Miss Tennessee Chandler Lawson has yet to begin her first Miss America preliminary competition, but the former Miss Chattanooga was named Thursday as one of the seven finalists for the pageant’s prestigious Jean Bartel Quality of Life Awards for Exceptional Community Service and Volunteerism during the Arrival Ceremony at the Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas.
The winner, who will receive a $6,000 scholarship, will be announced on Thursday. The second place winner receives a $4,000 grant and the third place recipient will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship. Miss Lawson, Miss Alabama Anna Laura Bryan and the state representatives from Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi and Washington will be interviewed by a panel of former Miss Americas who will determine the top three finalists for the awards that have been renamed this year in honor of the late Miss Bartel, who was Miss America 1943.
Miss Bartel, who sold over $2.5 million dollars in Treasury E War Bonds during World War II, was the first titleholder to recommend that college scholarships be awarded to future contestants. The first scholarships were awarded two years later in 1945 and remains today as Miss America 2013 will receive a $50,000 scholarship next Saturday night when the finals are televised on ABC.
Miss Lawson was recognized for starting the Tullahoma chapter of the non-profit 5 Loaves 4 Kids during her junior year at Tullahoma High School in 2007. Since the program’s inception, over 50,000 weekend meals have been provided to low income pupils throughout the Tullahoma and Coffee County area. She has raised over $10,000 for the organization through her Cans 4 Kids food drive and as Miss Tennessee, is the spokesperson for the Nashville based Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee. Miss Lawson has also participated in fundraisers throughout the state for area food banks since becoming Miss Tennessee last June.
During her three years of state competition, Miss Lawson received both the Miss America and Miss Tennessee Community Service Awards for her work with 5 Loaves 4 Kids.
Miss Lawson is the first Scenic City Pageants contestant in the program’s 11 year history to be a Quality of Life finalist but she is the second area representative to be honored in the last four years. Miss Tennessee 2009 Stefanie Wittler of Soddy-Daisy, was a Quality of Life finalist for her volunteer work with the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House.
If Miss Lawson is selected as a top three Quality of Life finalist, she would be just the second Miss Tennessee to be honored in the 23 year history of the awards program. Miss Tennessee 1990 Dana Brown was the second place finisher the first year the awards were presented.
Miss Lawson and the 52 contestants will be busy with rehearsals and appearances until the three rounds of preliminaries begin on Tuesday. The pivotal private interviews with this year’s panel of judges including retired Entertainment Tonight anchor and former Miss South Dakota Mary Hart, Olympic gymnastics champion McKayla Maroney, Cheryl Burke of Dancing with the Stars and Good Morning America meteorologist Sam Champion will be held prior to the preliminaries.
The finals will be televised on ABC (WTVC NewsChannel 9) next Saturday night which also happens to be Miss Lawson’s 23rd birthday, from 9-11pm with Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet hosting for the third consecutive year. There will also be a special Miss America edition of 20/20 airing from 8-9 pm.