SOMERS POINT - Miss America Nina Davuluri made her first school appearance Tuesday in the state where it all started - New Jersey. Three weeks after she was crowned Miss America 2014 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Sept. 15, Davuluri visited the students of St. Joseph Regional School in Somers Point to promote her pageant platform - celebrating diversity through cultural competency - and to answer students' questions.
Standing in front of the crowd of 530 pre-kindergarten to eighth-graders gathered in the school's gymnasium - some wearing paper crowns covered in glitter for the special occasion - Davuluri said it feels great to be back in New Jersey.
"I competed right around the corner from here, and I'm so happy to be back," she said to the children. "I love New Jersey."
The main purpose of her appearance, as she explained, was to talk about her platform.
Some of the students didn't know what the word diversity meant, so to help explain it, Davuluri played a game with them. She would ask them a question - such as do you have a sister, do you have a brother, a dog, a cat, play baseball, like math - and if the statement pertained to them, they were to raise their hands.
Afterward, she explained the purpose.
"We can't tell these things by looking at one another," she said, "because 90 percent of who we are is on the inside."
Davuluri's lesson was brief, as she allocated the majority of the 40-minute appearance for answering questions, which ranged from, 'How many bobby pins does it take to hold up your crown?' - an uncountable amount - 'What's your favorite ice cream?' - cookie dough - and 'Are you Asian?'
Davuluri's response to the last question was, "I am Asian, because my parents are both from India, but I was born in New York, so I always viewed myself as, first and foremost, American, but I celebrate my Indian culture as well."
Students also asked her if she has a boyfriend - yes - if she could demonstrate the signature Miss America wave - she did - and what her favorite baseball team is, to which she answered the New York Yankees and was booed.
Eighth-grader Bridget McMenamin asked Davuluri if she still keeps in touch with the other Miss America contestants.
She said she does and that she and some of the other contestants have a text message group chain that they use to send jokes back and forth among themselves.
"I was really rooting for her," McMenamin said, after hearing her response.
Speaking to the female students, Davuluri said if any of them have a desire to be Miss America one day, they should practice community service.
"You can be the best Miss America you can be every day, with or without the crown," she said.
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