Irish-American, Teresa Scanlan of Nebraska was crowned as the 2011 Miss America during Saturday’s event at the Planet Hollywood Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
The 17-year-old is the youngest winner since 1938, when the competition rules changed.
Ms Scanlan is a Gering resident and attends Scottsbluff High School. She has aspirations for a career in politics according to the Miss America website. She hopes to attend law school and become a 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 to get into those powerful positions," she told The AP.
For her talent slot she played "Whitewater Chopped Sticks" on the piano.
On Saturday she spoke about national security in response to a question on the WikiLeaks scandal.
"You know when it came to that situation, it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation, we have to focus on security first and then people's right to know, because it's so important that everybody who's in our borders is safe and so we can't let things like that happen, and they must be handled properly," she said.
The Nebraska contestant bet off 52 other pageant hopefuls to gain this years title.
The other four finalists included Emoly West of Oklahoma, Jacquie Brown of Washington, Jalee Fuselier of Hawaii and Alyse Eady of Arkansas.
The High School Student is the youngest winner since the pageant introduced age requirements in 1938. The age limit changed in 1993 and was lowered to 17 to 24. Prior to this, the youngest wiinner was 15-year-old Marian Bergeron of Connecticut, in 1933.
This year’s pageant marked the 90th anniversary of Miss America.
Contestants were judged on talent, appearance and demeanor based on performances, interviews, evening wear and swimsuit competitions.
The pageant aims to "to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community," according to their website.