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In the Spotlight

Less than a year ago, Adrienne Core (’10) was student teaching at nearby Cary High School, putting the final touches on an undergraduate degree in secondary math education. On Saturday, she took center stage at the internationally broadcast Miss America Pageant, competing against 52 women for the coveted crown and more than $200,000 in scholarship money, all while helping to raise awareness for the V Foundation for Cancer Research and Children’s Miracle Network.

A former Miss Raleigh and Miss Fayetteville pageant winner, Core graduated magna cum laude in May and was accepted into the NC State Graduate School prior to being named Miss North Carolina in June – an honor that guaranteed the Erwin, NC, native a spot in this week’s Miss America festivities.

After their arrival in Las Vegas a week ago Thursday, Core and her fellow Miss America contestants would immediately embark on a 10-day journey filled with interviews, public appearances, service opportunities and preliminary competitions – a jam-packed schedule that ensures the contestants stayed busy through the televised finale.

Every Miss America contestant is judged in four categories during prelims: talent, on-stage interview, swimsuit and evening gown. During Tuesday’s action, the NC State grad wowed judges and audience members with a high-energy clogging routine, and ran away with top honors in the talent category. Then, on Saturday, the top 15 contestants competed for the legendary title of Miss America.

We were able to catch up with Core during a break in her schedule on Thursday afternoon and asked her about pageant life, her passion for cancer research, and what NC State means to her.

Why did you choose NC State?

Growing up, we were always big Wolfpack fans. My dad was big into sports, and I think I was a Wolfpack fan the day I was born. We always enjoyed athletics, participating in sports, and going to NC State events.

My sister, Allison, who is seven years older than I am, graduated from NC State as well, so I guess I followed her path. I didn’t choose the same major – she did communication and public relations – but I knew I wanted to be at NC State, there was no question about it.  It was actually the only college application I filled out and as soon as I was accepted, I never filled out another college application.

How would you sum up your NC State experience?

Adrienne Core ('10)
Miss North Carolina Adrienne Core (’10) was named Tuesday night's preliminary Talent winner for her clogging performance to "Soul Man," during competition at the 2011 Miss America Pageant. With the win, Core earned a $2,000 scholarship to put toward grad school expenses at NC State.

Busy. I was involved in a lot. In addition to being a Teaching Fellow, I was also president of the NC State clogging team, something that was a lot of fun and helped me as far as being on stage and performing. I lived on campus for three years and just loved being a part of campus life. There’s always so much going on, between sports and other things, to get involved in.

I loved every minute of it, and once my time of being Miss North Carolina (and possibly, and hopefully, Miss America) comes to a close, I look forward to coming back and starting on my master’s degree.

Last year, I was accepted into the Master of Science program in Math Education and, depending on how the Miss North Carolina competition went, I had planned on being a college student a month later and starting back to school. But being Miss North Carolina is a full-time job – you’re not allowed to work or being in school – so as soon as I won, I was able to defer enrollment.

How did originally get into the world of pageantry?

I didn’t grow up in pageants – through high school, I was big into sports. I played varsity volleyball, basketball and softball. I danced as well, but never really had a whole lot of interest in pageants. Looking back, I think I was really too busy to think about it. I really enjoyed dance – I’ve always loved being on stage and performing – so during my sophomore year at NC State, I looked at pageants as an opportunity to help pay for school. At this point, I’ve earned almost $20,000 in scholarships through different pageants, and have had a great opportunity to talk about a personal platform issue that is so close to my heart.

I chose the V Foundation for Cancer Research after losing my father, Charles, to cancer. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 multiple myeloma when I was 11 years old, and was given five years to live. When he did pass away, he was just months away from surviving almost eight years. It was an incredible battle.

For the most part, I had very normal teenage and childhood years playing sports. He was at all my ball games, always pushing me to be my best. He is truly the reason – along with my mom and their support – that I can do this, and it’s kind of a surreal experience that I get to share everything I’ve done.

It gives me a chance for me to share my story and what I’ve been through, in just trying to let people know what being Miss North Carolina is all about. It’s so much more than competing here in Las Vegas for 10 days – I have the honor of being Miss North Carolina for an entire year, and want to make the most of it.

What has the last week been like?

Well, there hasn’t been much sleep, that’s for sure. As soon as we landed, we went into interviews, had an opening ceremony, and shot a commercial for the Miss America Pageant sponsor, DSW. We started rehearsing last Friday – the production is a big part of Miss America, It’s what people look forward to, and it gets the show off to a great start. Our opening number is going to be so much fun.

You’ve been on the road for several months, touring the state, and now you’re in Las Vegas. What do you miss most about NC State campus life and culture?

It’s so hard for me to miss athletic events. I’m a big, big football and basketball fan, too. Unfortunately, I missed quite a bit of football season, but I do have the ESPN ScoreCenter app on my phone, so even while I’ve been out here, I can get alerts so I can know when basketball games get underway, and I can take a sneak peak at what the score is and what’s going on.

Looking back, how did NC State help prepare you for your future?

Honestly, it’s such a diverse campus, and I had an opportunity to get to know so many different types of people from all over the world – it really helped me for something like Miss America. The 52 girls that I’ve met here are from every state in the nation, as well as D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands – developing those relationships and getting to know those girls so well in just the short time we’ve been here has been a lot of fun.

What are your future plans and ambitions?

Teaching is definitely a long-term thing for me. I was able to student-teach last spring at Cary High School, and just being back in a high school was an absolute blast. Eventually, when I get back to NC State and finish my master’s degree, I will start teaching. Hopefully, it will be in Wake County, because I really enjoyed student teaching there. High school is definitely where I want to be, hopefully coaching and teaching math.

Now is the time of year when high school students everywhere are deciding what university they’ll attend. Do you have any advice for them, as they take the next step in their lives?

It is a big a step – it is such a big change from high school to college, but NC State is truly the best family I think you could find anywhere. Even though it’s such a large university with so many students, faculty and staff and the campus is huge, the Wolfpack family really is a close-knit family that you feel instantly connected to. The atmosphere is just so incredible, and you’ll never go wrong being at NC State.

Editor’s note: For a look at Adrienne’s award-winning clogging routine from Tuesday’s competition, check out the video below (scroll to the 38:00 mark).