Miss America 2011 winner

A 17-year-old Nebraskan too young to cast a ballot has captured enough votes to win the Miss America crown, kickstarting her hopes of going to law school and eventually becoming a politician.

"I want to be there making sure that I stand up for what's right, stand up for integrity and honesty," Teresa Scanlan told The Associated Press on Saturday night after becoming the first Miss America from the Cornhusker State.

She won a $50,000 scholarship and a year's reign in one of the most visible positions any young woman could seek.

Scanlan captured the hearts of seven judges after a night of playing the piano, walking across a Las Vegas stage in a white gown and black bikini, and saying security trumps the public's right to knowledge when it comes to government leaks.

She said she'll register to vote as an independent after turning 18 next month, and work toward her goals by going to law school and perhaps becoming a prosecutor, then judge.

"At this point, attorneys and politicians are looked down on and have terrible reputations for being greedy and power hungry and I really think it's important for people who have their heart and mind in the right place get into those powerful positions," Scanlan told the AP.

"When I talk to kids my age, I don't find very many who are interested in that, because many are just turned off to the idea," she said. "I think it's important that we get a lot more of my generation willing to step up and go into those positions."

Scanlan beat out 52 beauty queens from other U.S. states, plus Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. She said she was a bit worried after a preliminary interview with judges and hoped they would think a 17-year-old could do the job.



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