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By Amy Dalrymple / Bismarck Tribune on Sep 11, 2017 at 7:08 p.m.
BISMARCK—Cara Mund's high school classmates knew she'd make history.
Mund, who graduated from Bismarck's Century High School in 2012, was voted "Most Likely to be Miss America" for her senior yearbook.
On Monday, Sept. 11, her former school was buzzing about Mund becoming the first North Dakotan to win the Miss America crown.
"We were screaming in our house," said Robin Jossart, who taught Mund in advanced placement biology.
North Dakota has sent contestants to the Miss America pageant for 70 years, and no one had ever made it to the top five, said SuAnn Olson, a board member for the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization. Three North Dakotans have made it to the top 10, most recently Roxana Saberi in 1997.
"I'm just giddy. People don't appreciate how hard that is to win," Olson said. "Hopefully people in our state see that was a real accomplishment and take real pride in that."
Mund, 23, graduated with honors from Brown University and plans to attend law school at the University of Notre Dame.
Her high school teachers said Mund took the most challenging classes to reach her goal of attending Brown. She often returned after graduating to talk to students at her former high school.
"She certainly serves as a role model for other students," said Sharon Espeland, assistant principal for Century who taught Mund in advanced placement government. "That was one of her goals, and she worked pretty hard to achieve it. That opens a lot of minds and helps other kids see that nothing is impossible."
Cara Mund, left, Jacky Arness and Annika Vernon pose after the Montpelier Pageant on July 13, 2013, in Montpelier, N.D.
At Bismarck's Let's Dance Studio, where Mund has been an instructor and student, people who have watched Mund grow up were ecstatic.
"We're just shocked. We knew she could do it, but you don't ever think you'll know a Miss America," said Amy Mason, manager of the studio.
Mund is recognized for the fashion shows she's organized since age 14 to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising more than $78,500 to grant the wishes of 23 children with life-threatening medical conditions. President Barack Obama honored her for her efforts in 2011.
"She is an inspiration and very admirable and we are so proud to be a part of her life and a part of her reign," said Billi Jo Zielinski, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish North Dakota.
Mund interned for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., from August to December of 2016. She has said she wants to be the first female governor of North Dakota.
"My guess is she'll get it done," said Hoeven, also a former North Dakota governor. "She's driven to achieve things, but she does it in a way where she's so personable and so gracious."
Mund has competed in pageants since she was young, achieving all of the titles from Little Miss North Dakota through Miss North Dakota's Outstanding Teen before winning Miss North Dakota in June.
At the Miss North Dakota pageant, Mund was the first contestant ever to win all of the categories, Olson said.
"It just shows you that she was just so ready to win," Olson said.
Sydney Helgeson, Miss North Dakota's Outstanding Teen, accompanied Mund to the Miss America pageant. Helgeson said one of Mund's strengths is the interview portion.
"I think that really makes her stick out," said Helgeson, a junior at Bismarck High. "She really just shined."
Family friend Kim Brick, of Bismarck, said Mund has always been focused on meeting her goals, which included making it past the top 10 at Miss America.
"I thought if anybody could do it, it would be Cara," said Brick, whose daughter graduated from high school with Mund.
Mund is expected to be on "Good Morning America" and "Live with Kelly and Ryan" on Tuesday morning.
Staff at Century High joked Monday that they will need T-shirts to boast about their famous alumni: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, class of 2011, and now Miss America.
"Everything she presented on TV, that's her," said Principal Steve Madler, who was watching both Wentz and Mund compete Sunday night. "She's an incredible student leader."
The Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization will host a homecoming celebration for Mund that will be open to the public, most likely in two to three months, Olson said.
Miss America wins a $50,000 scholarship and receives a salary during her year as Miss America, according to a spokeswoman for the Miss America Organization.
North Dakotans who had never met Mund also were rooting for her.
"We're behind her and so proud of her," said Sandy Tessier, of Bismarck.
June Bohn, 80, of Bismarck, said she's watched the Miss America pageant as long as she's had TV and was thrilled to finally see a North Dakotan get the crown.
"I couldn't believe it last night," Bohn said. "I almost fell off the couch."
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