Penn State student enjoying spotlight of Miss America Competition

Trey Miller
August 22, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the past couple of months, broadcast journalism student and aspiring TV anchor Katie Schreckengast has spent a lot of time in front of a camera. This time, though, it’s not for class.

Schreckengast, who was named Miss Pennsylvania in June, will be live on ABC at 9 p.m. Sept. 10 for the 2018 Miss America Competition. On the other side of the camera, millions of people will be watching around the country. That doesn’t faze her at all.

“Now that I know both sides, I know how it feels to be the interviewer and the interviewee. I go in completely calm every single time,” said Schreckengast.

“There will be millions of people on the other side of the screen that I can’t see, and I don’t think that’s as daunting because I have done that before, not with millions of people, but I have done that before as a broadcast journalism major.”

Currently, Schreckengast is competing to advance to the top 15 on the final night of the competition. A panel of judges selects 14 contestants and the final spot – “America’s Choice” – is determined by an online vote. Voters can submit one vote per day ( until 9 p.m. Sept. 5.

Schreckengast, who grew up in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, started getting involved with the Miss America Organization at the age of 13. A close family friend, who had been a volunteer with the program for more than 50 years, thought Schreckengast would be a perfect fit for the organization’s Teen Program.

She continued with it, and prior to her senior year of high school she was named Miss Pennsylvania Outstanding Teen, later competing for Miss America Outstanding Teen. After that, she took a few years off from pageants to focus on school and being a member of the Penn State Blue Band.

“That was so extremely valuable,” said Schreckengast. “After this year, I won’t be Miss Pennsylvania anymore. My title will be Katie Schreckengast again. It prepared me to know who I am as an adult without having a sash and a crown.”

Pursuing a broadcast journalism degree was the perfect fit for Schreckengast. She realized that through her Miss America experiences in high school. The organization helped make sure she was always up to date on current events and it helped sharpen her interview and public speaking skills.

She’s certainly familiar with Penn State. Her mother, Lori, took a class at the University, her brother Zach just started as a freshman at Penn State Berks and her father, Randy, attended Penn State.

It was her family that got her into music at a young age. Her mom would always listen to music, and her dad was a talented saxophone player. That led to Schreckengast becoming the drum major and president for her high school marching band, and to her pageant talent of playing the alto saxophone.

Ultimately, she joined the Blue Band, which has proven to be a help in her quest to be crowned Miss America.

“I wasn’t nervous at all on stage, not even a smidgen because nothing can compare to 107,000 people,” said Schreckengast.

“It honestly helps so much because the nerves are not as intense as standing at the very front of the tunnel and looking out at all of these people who are about to watch you.”

It wasn’t until she was at Penn State that Schreckengast saw an opportunity to get back into the Miss America Organization. Schreckengast, who was adopted from South Korea when she was six months old, began blogging about her adoption story, and receiving positive feedback from people all over the country. That was the idea behind her platform issue of “Building Families Through Adoption.”

“That’s when I realized I could partner the Miss America Organization and my personal platform and this life that I’m living, this passion that I have for talking about adoption,” said Schreckengast. “The crown could really serve as a microphone for me to share my platform.

“The No. 1 thing that I hope to do with my title is not only share my story with audiences across the nation, but also share the stories of other adopted families from across the country. I feel too often adoption isn’t talked about as openly or as often as it should be.”

The organization also gave Schreckengast the opportunity to give back in other ways. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are a beneficiary of the Miss America Organization. Schreckengast started raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at the age of 13, and has since raised more than $15,000.

Schreckengast’s schedule will be even busier after voting for “America’s Choice” ends Sept. 5. Competition begins that day and wraps up with the “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” Sept. 9, when Schreckengast will be representing Penn State with her Blue Band outfit. The Sept. 10 show will announce the top 15, and a winner will be crowned at the end.

For Schreckengast, the experience competing for the title of Miss America has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But, most importantly for her, the crown can help her promote the things she’s passionate about -- like adoption and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I’m just so lucky to have the opportunity and title to help me pursue those passions,” said Schreckengast. “That’s how I feel going into Miss America because I just feel at peace knowing I’ve done everything I can do and to just soak up every single second because it’ll never happen again. This experience is so unique.”

Last Updated August 22, 2017