By Lindsay Kirkland
“If things don’t go your way, don’t give up. Keep trying,” advises Kaitlyn Schoeffel. She dreamed of becoming Miss New Jersey since she was a little girl growing up in Egg Harbor Township. She kept trying and on June 17 her dream came true as she was crowned Miss New Jersey 2017.
Schoeffel is a 2011 graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School and a 2015 graduate of Montclair University. From an early age, Schoeffel loved dancing. Her mother was a dancer and currently owns and operates Miss Margot’s Ensemble Dance Studio in Egg Harbor Township. “Kaitlyn was always hardworking and loved dancing, performing and pageants,” shares Schoeffel’s mom. In 2007, at only 14 years old, Schoeffel was crowned Miss Outstanding Teen.
After graduating college, Schoeffel took a job performing on a cruise ship. This was a good fit because Schoeffel had developed a passion for traveling. In only two years, Schoeffel traveled to 30 states, 23 countries and four continents. Her favorite country to visit was Thailand which she describes as so beautiful it was almost like being on a different planet. While there, she saw bioluminescent plankton and describes the experience as comparable to laying in a field and looking up at the stars in the night sky, but you are under water and the illumination is lime green. Schoeffel has an adventurous spirit and believes in immersing herself in the culture when she travels to new places. For that reason, while she was in Cambodia, she snacked on tarantulas and scorpions. She said you would see them being sold on a street corner as readily as you may see a hot dog stand in New York City. Schoeffel also worked as a magician’s assistant and recently won big on the Price Is Right show which aired in February. She won $33,000 in prizes including a trip to Argentina.
Schoeffel’s platform is called Operation Empowerment which provides disadvantaged children exposure to the arts. She plans to raise funding to provide vocal, dance or other art lessons to children who may have otherwise not be able to access them. In return, the recipients are asked to use their newly acquired talent to benefit the community in some way such as performing at a nursing home or working on a mural in a public building. Schoeffel is also working with theatres to donate tickets to shows that can then be given to disadvantaged children. Schoeffel explained that working with the Miss Precious Gem Pageant contestants, she now sees that children with special needs are also at a disadvantage of being able to access the arts. She therefore plans to include them as part of her Operation Empowerment platform.
One thing is certain, Schoeffel is going to be very busy between now and the Miss America pageant in September. Along with her other Miss New Jersey duties, she will be spreading her platform and perfecting her talent before hitting the stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. As she reflects on her journey she says “I’m kind of glad I didn’t win earlier. I stopped reaching for others’ opinions. I formed my own now and I know who I am.” The whole world will be watching and we will all be cheering Schoeffel on as she competes in the Miss America Pageant in just a couple of months in Atlantic City.