Maria prepared a unique item to represent Maryland — a reusable water bottle filled with things that represent the state, such as things like blue crab shaped soap, pens that had "Hagerstown" on them, a small packet of Old Bay, a postcard, and other mementos that came from Maryland. She also used Maryland state colors.
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She preppared 60 water bottles so that she could take one to each of the judges and other contestants, Maria said.
"It was something I'd never really done before, so it was a different experience," Maria said
As a contestant, Maria had the opportunity to meet other girls from all over the country.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Maria said. "It was really neat to hear all of the different accents and cultures from across the country."
Although Maria didn't walk away with the title, she said she still enjoyed her experience.
"If I would've won, that would have been wonderful. But I didn't, which is just as wonderful," she said.
The national finalists received a scholarship; their placement in the competition determined the amount. Maria said she plans to use her scholarship at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., where she will be a freshman in the fall.
Maria, who was student council president and a member of the National Honor Society during her senior year at St. Maria Goretti High School, plans to study biochemistry in preparation for a medical career. She is planning to be a neonatologist.
Maria said she first heard about neonatologists when she saw a television advertisement as a fourth-grade student.
"I've always loved little children and always known I wanted to be a doctor," she said.
Maria said lessons she learned from planning for and competing in the America's Homecoming Queen pageant would help her in her academic career.
"This whole experience is going to help me a lot in college," she said.