Joanna Wicks may have taken center stage by being named Miss Delaware last weekend, but St. Thomas More Academy shared the spotlight.
Wicks and first runner-up Rebecca Gasperetti both started teaching at St. Thomas More this past school year. They also finished first and second (this time with Gasperetti finishing first) for the Carol Maclary Excellence in Education award.
Wicks, 24, will next compete in the Miss America competition in Atlantic City. The new Miss America will be determined Sept. 9.
A sign of the close bond between Wicks and Gasperetti came as the finalists were announced in random order. Wicks was called before her friend and competitor.
“As soon as they started saying her last name, I just started crying,” Wicks told The Dialog on Tuesday. “We had been hoping to be one-two [in the state contest] since last September.”
Gasperetti, who graduated from St. Thomas More in 2012, said she “feels so blessed to have had the opportunity to compete with my coworker and one of my best friends.”
She recruited Wicks into the competition soon after school began last September. Wicks won the Miss Wilmington competition and Gasperetti (the previous Miss Wilmington) was named Miss Hockessin, sending both to the state competition at Cape Henlopen High School last weekend. The two began working together both on school projects and in preparation for the state competition.
“Joanna and I worked side-by-side on putting on our fall and spring productions,” Gasperetti said. “I directed the shows and she designed the sets.”
Besides working on those productions, Wicks said they would practice answering interview questions with one-another. “I think that is the most nerve-wracking part of the competition.”
She believes their experience at St. Thomas More helped them take the top two places for excellence in education where contestants cited issues they saw in education and possible solutions. Since most contestants are college-aged, the two had an advantage.
“Rebecca and I talked not only about our experience as a student but also as a teacher in the classroom. What I talked about is having a very inclusive environment in the classroom … and interactive learning.” St. Thomas More provides both, she said, but “that’s not something that happens at every school.”
St. Thomas More provides yet another link between Wicks and the Diocese of Wilmington. She grew up in the Baltimore area, where her family still attends (“coincidentally,” in Wicks’ words) St. Thomas More Church.
One of the priests who served there is now Bishop Malooly of Wilmington. “I’ve known him since I was 3 or 4 years old,” Wicks said. She said they stay in contact.
Besides the overall title and second place for the education award, Wicks won the lifestyle and fitness competition (previously known as swimsuit competition). Gasperetti also won two community service awards that “mean the most to me because giving hope to those who are in need is what I live for. It gives me a platform to educate my students on the importance of giving back to the community.”
Wicks will use her broader platform as Miss Delaware to promote domestic violence prevention and awareness, something she learned about while minoring in domestic violence and women’s studies at the University of Delaware.
The statistics startled her. One out of every three women will face domestic violence in their lifetime, she said, with women 18 to 24 most at risk. The risk is even higher for women of color, she said.
“I did not realize how widespread it was. While growing up, I never talked about it, and my friends didn’t talk about it either.”
Since she began talking about the issue, she’s learned that some of her friends wound up in unhealthy relationships. Her Miss Delaware title provides a forum for her to speak to young adults, as well as her students, about dating relationships, respect and responsible social media usage.
She often wears purple, since a purple ribbon symbolizes domestic violence prevention and awareness. It should come as no surprise that her fondness for purple provides yet another link to St. Thomas More Academy.
The school colors: Black and purple.