ATLANTIC CITY — Miss America 2018 Cara Mund returned Monday to the city where she was crowned to visit two city elementary schools.

The recently crowned Miss America visited the Pennsylvania Avenue and Richmond Avenue schools to thank the students and staff for their large donations to the fourth annual Miss America Serves Food Drive.

Students from the Pennsylvania Avenue School greeted Mund in the hallways with signs and flowers, while teachers and staff wore tiaras.

At the Richmond Avenue School, the first- through fifth-grade classes learned about Mund’s home state of North Dakota, including the state motto, the state flower and the official state beverage — milk.

Both schools have students from pre-K to eighth grade who were excited to high-five and hug Miss America.

Along with the incentive for the special day, Pennsylvania Avenue Principal Dr. La’Quetta Small said the food drive is a beginning-of-the-year activity the staff and students enjoy. “One thing we do is promote unity,” Small said. “We only had the first few weeks of school to collect, so we reminded the students in the back-to-school letters to bring their canned goods and nonperishable items.”

According to Small, the Pennsylvania Avenue School collected more than 3,000 donations for the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

During Miss America competition week, the 51 contestants rode in a caravan of jitneys to pick up the school donation boxes. Mund was a part of the team that collected the Pennsylvania Avenue School’s donation. “I was shocked by the size of the donation,” Mund said.

The Atlantic City Rescue Mission has partnered with the Miss America Organization for several years for the Miss America Serves initiative and is also the official charity of the Richmond Avenue School.

“We’re teaching our children to give back,” said Richmond Avenue Principal Shelley Williams, “but the kids don’t realize they may be giving to the student right next to them.”

Williams explained that guest speakers and assemblies can be difficult to bring to the school, due to fees and budget constraints. “We can receive grants or do fundraisers, but the fees can still be very high. So if we can give back and get to have Miss America come, we’ll donate every year,” Williams said.

During classroom visits and in the gym assembly, Mund told the students at each school her story of continuing to set and achieve goals, even after failure.

“In my Miss America interview, the judges asked me what was my biggest failure. I could have said when I didn’t get elected class president or when I didn’t win Miss North Dakota three times, but I said it was when I didn’t try something — because you only fail when you don’t try,” Mund said.

Mund’s “year of service” with Miss America will include cross-country travel for visits to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and several other schools.

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Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.