to listen to Paola talk about this festival
is an excerpt from the book Celebrating Women.
Teresa Francisca Benitez, Miss Nevada
“The first papers I signed as an adult, three weeks after my
eighteenth birthday, were to file with the IRS for 501c3 status for
the nonprofit I co-founded, The Nevada Empowered Women’s Project.
We advocate for families that need resources and help. And we bring
to policy makers, the voices of the true poverty experts---the women
who live in poverty, take the bus to drop off their three kids at childcare
and go to a job that won’t even cover the cost of the childcare.
I was President of the Project for four and a half years.
“I’ll be heading off to the University of Michigan to get
my masters in social work, then I hope to become a Senator and write
public policy on social welfare issues like Medicaid, food stamps, healthcare
education. I have done internships with the Nevada state legislature
and lobbied on Capitol Hill four times. I can’t wait to set the
“My father was from Guadalajara and came to this country at 16.
Mother is Caucasian from Washington DC. Although she married
“The Miss America Organization has funded my entire undergraduate
degree; I now have about $15,000 to apply toward graduate school.
Whether I walk away with the crown or not, mission accomplished.”
Teresa stunned the judges and audience with her dramatic monologue
from The Laramie Project, a two minute excerpt from Matthew Shepherd’s
father’s testimony during the trial of the men who killed his
gay son in 1998. She was named third runner up to Miss America, and
won $44,000 in scholarships during the competition in Atlantic City.