A Long Reign for America's Junior Miss

Mississippians like to think of their state as a hotbed of beauty pageants. So, maybe it's only fitting that the very last America's Junior Miss hails from, you guessed it, Mississippi.

The people who run the America's Junior Miss contest -- which contestants technically refer to as a scholarship competition -- have announced that they will disband after 48 years because of difficulty finding sponsors. That makes a special girl named Kelli Schutz all the more special. The 18-year-old, who has 4.0 grade-point average and wants to perform on Broadway, then go to medical school, was crowned America's Junior Miss on June 25.

Unless contest organizers reverse their decision, Schutz will head to Southern Methodist University in Dallas as the last America's Junior Miss.

Thus, she will be deprived of something all her predecessors got: the honor of passing the title to her successor. Then again, she may get a prize that tops that -- big-time.

"If I get to be last," Schutz mused, "I guess I remain America's Junior Miss forever."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Kelli Schutz, America's Junior Miss 2005, may hold the title into her senior years.