ATLANTIC CITY — History was made Wednesday morning in front of the bronze Miss America statue on the Boardwalk.
Two Atlantic City High School graduates were awarded Miss America Sisterhood Scholarships in front of Boardwalk Hall to continue their education. It’s the first time in Miss America history that scholarships were awarded to students who are not involved in the organization.
“It’s only natural to give back to the community who gives and provides us so much,” said Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles, who grew up in Atlantic City and spearheaded the Sisterhood Scholarship.
The scholarships were awarded to friends Natalie Ott, 18, and Aliza Haider, 18, both of Brigantine, who graduated Atlantic City High School last month. Haider could not attend the ceremony Wednesday because she already started college classes.
Charles, also the Atlantic City liaison for the MAO Board of Directors, along with former Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunalp, presented the scholarships, which were funded by former Miss Americas.
Both scholarship recipients received $1,200 from the scholarship, which was judged upon candidates’ academic achievement, community service and an original essay about women empowering women.
Family members accepted the scholarship on behalf of Haider. She will attend Princeton University to study chemistry, her family said. She ranked first in her class of 472 and accumulated a GPA of 4.49.
She is active in community service, including shelving books at the library, helping with beach cleanups and teaching swimming to children, including those with disabilities.
Ott, who attended the ceremony with her mother, will attend West Virginia University in the fall and study aerospace engineering.
She was the vice president of the Honor Society, graduated with a 4.47 GPA, was on the crew team, and also played soccer, softball and did swimming in high school. She also was an advocate against youth drug and alcohol abuse.
Greg Petroff, the attorney for the Miss America Foundation, said Wednesday he was on the committee to help select the candidates for the “Sisterhood Scholarship.”
“You are a part of something that will become much bigger in years to come,” he said to the winners.
The scholarship initiative was originally announced in May, when organization officials said they wanted to give back to the city. Charles has said she wanted to give to young women in the area to help them reach their academic goals.