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Cara Mund proud to put ND 'on the map' as state's first Miss America

Miss North Dakota Cara Mund competes in the evening gown component of the Miss America competition Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mark Makela / Reuters1 / 2
Miss North Dakota Cara Mund reacts after being announced as the winner of the Miss America competition Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mark Makela / Reuters2 / 2

BISMARCK — As Cara Mund prepares for a year of traveling the country as Miss America, she's hoping North Dakotans will book her for appearances so she can visit home.

Mund, who spoke by phone on Tuesday, Sept. 12, between national media interviews, credited her home state with giving her a strong work ethic and humble attitude.

"I feel like sometimes North Dakotans are overlooked, but that makes us work that much harder," said Mund, the first North Dakotan to be crowned Miss America. "Yet, we still keep that North Dakota nice aspect."

The 23-year-old said she could have qualified to compete for the Miss America title from Rhode Island, where she attended Brown University, or Washington, D.C., where she lived while interning for Sen. John Hoeven.

But it was her dream to become Miss North Dakota and represent her state at a national level.

"It's been such a privilege to be able to kind of put us on the map and to be the very first one to make history," Mund said.

After being crowned on Sunday night, Mund made an appearance on Monday on the beach in Atlantic City, N.J., and then flew to New York City for a media tour that started Tuesday and included "Good Morning America" and interviews from the top of the Empire State Building.

Next, she will travel to Los Angeles and start traveling around the country, Mund said.

"It's been busy, but it's been such a blessing as well," she said.

Mund's parents, Doug Mund and DeLora Kautzmann Mund, returned to Bismarck late Monday after cheering on their daughter at the pageant.

"I think I'm still in shock. Everything happened so fast," said Kautzmann Mund, who recorded her daughter's national TV appearances to watch when she got home from work Tuesday. "It just doesn't seem real."

Mund said the experience of being Miss America will help prepare her for another goal, being elected the first female governor of North Dakota. On Tuesday, Mund added that she also may be interested in representing North Dakota in the U.S. Senate, but wants to serve at the state level first.

Mund said she doesn't align with a political party. She interned for Hoeven, a Republican, but also attracted national attention for saying President Donald Trump was wrong to withdraw from the Paris climate accord in an onstage interview.

"I don't really identify as a Democrat or a Republican, but rather just an American," Mund said. "I'm a person, not a party."

Mund said she hopes to advocate for the scholarship opportunities available through the Miss America Organization. She said she earned $45,000 in scholarship money leading up to being crowned Miss America, plus an additional $50,000 in scholarship money for winning the crown.

"That not only is going to help pay off my student debt, but also help get me to law school," said Mund, who has been accepted to the University of Notre Dame.

Miss America also reportedly earns a six-figure salary.

Shortly after being crowned, a team of people, including security and tour managers, began to assemble to work with Mund, said Debbie Richter, president of the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization who traveled to the pageant.

A homecoming celebration is being planned for Mund, but Richter anticipates it may be up to three months before Mund can return to North Dakota. Organizers of the Miss North Dakota pageant held in Williston are hopeful she'll be able to return for the event next year, but it will depend on her schedule.

"She is now under the planning of the Miss America Organization," Richter said.

Mund said she wants to focus on service during her time as Miss America and plans to continue supporting her personal platform, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

She said she hopes to still host a fashion show for the foundation in Bismarck next year, continuing her annual tradition of raising money to grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

She'll also take on the Miss America platform of supporting Children's Miracle Network.

"I get to make both miracles happen and wishes come true," Mund said.

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