Miss Virginia 2019, a VCU Pharmacy student, is ready to bring STEM to Miss America competition

Camille Schrier.
Camille Schrier returned this summer to the VCU School of Pharmacy, where she is a student. She is taking a gap year while she serves as Miss Virginia 2019, competes for Miss America 2020 and educates Virginia's children and adults about medication safety, healthy choices and STEM. (Greg Weatherford/VCU School of Pharmacy)

When Camille Schrier competed for Miss Virginia last summer, her unique talent stunned the crowd, the judges and many more nationwide. Donning goggles and a lab coat, she performed a science experiment onstage. It won her the Miss Virginia 2019 crown, which she has worn with pride since July.

Now, Schrier, a Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy student, is taking the stage again. She will be in Uncasville, Connecticut, next week where she will be a contender for the title of Miss America 2020.

As Miss Virginia, she has educated children and adults across the state on the importance of making healthy choices; championing science, technology, engineering and math professions; and keeping medications safe.

VCU News interviewed Schrier about her experience as Miss Virginia and the upcoming Miss America competition, which will air on NBC at 8 p.m. Dec. 19.

What have been the highlights so far of your experience as Miss Virginia?

From being a speaker at the Women in Innovation forum here in Richmond to … an appearance and chemistry demonstration on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” I think it would be fair to say that my journey as Miss Virginia has been filled with almost daily highlights.

I have already traveled over 12,000 miles to more than 29 schools and visited more than 8,000 elementary students to talk about making healthy choices, finding trusted adults and medication safety. I have additionally done STEM-specific programming for another 2,000-plus students. Currently, I am in the final days of preparing to leave for Connecticut to compete for the job of a lifetime as Miss America 2020!

Miss Virginia, Camille Schrier, and 9-year-old science wiz, Amoy Antunet, show Kelly Clarkson, Jessica Alba, and Kelsea Ballerini how to make an explosive cloud out of nitrogen gas.

You won Miss Virginia by showing off your talents as a scientist. How has this been received, and how are you hoping to bring this talent to the Miss America stage?

Bringing a chemistry demonstration to the Miss Virginia talent stage was a risk and I knew it, but it paid off big time. The “reaction” (pun intended) has been overwhelming and extremely positive. What I have come to realize is that people talk about breaking stereotypes in these types of competitions, but as Gayle King said on “CBS This Morning” in response to seeing the video of my Miss Virginia talent, “stereotype broken!” Little girls can now be what they can see on this competition stage.

Nothing has been more rewarding than to view posts from mothers in Virginia and even North Carolina of their young daughters dressed up as Miss Virginia for Halloween, wearing not a fancy princess dress but a lab coat and a crown! These girls are learning very early that Miss Virginia can be a scientist, and a scientist can be Miss Virginia. Considering the 90-second time limit and substantive restrictions on what can be used in a Miss America talent competition, it is my goal to bring my Miss Virginia talent to the Miss America stage in the biggest way possible so that everyone in the arena can see that science can be entertaining!

How has your experience as a pharmacy student at VCU made an impact on your time as Miss Virginia?

One of the key roles in the job of Miss America is to further her own personal social impact initiative. “Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics” is my social-impact initiative that grew out of my VCU School of Pharmacy education and experiences.

The public is relatively unaware that every eight minutes a well-meaning parent or caregiver makes a medication error that affects a child. And some families may overlook the difficulty facing their aging loved ones, who often have multiple diagnoses and numerous medications. In addition, we lose more than 130 people to opioid overdoses every day in the U.S., and it is now a national emergency. As a pharmacy student, a certified naloxone trainer in the city of Richmond, Miss Virginia — and hopefully as Miss America — I am educating about administering medications safely, safe disposal and drug take-back, and the role and use of lifesaving naloxone.

VCU and the School of Pharmacy have offered unprecedented support to me in this journey to Miss America. I am deeply grateful as I proudly serve as their ambassador while in this role. The final question that remains is this: Will I return to graduate with the Class of 2023 or 2024? Tune in on Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. on NBC and find out!

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