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Catholic Art Teacher Aims to Become Next Miss America

By Gary Morton

Miss Delaware Joanna Wicks and runner up Rebecca Gasperetti smile Aug. 9 in the art room at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia, Del. Wicks said she will rely on God and the words of St. John’s Gospel to help her stay calm during the Miss America competition, which concludes Sept. 9. (CNS photo/Don Blake)

MAGNOLIA, Del. (CNS) – Wonder Woman may have helped Joanna Wicks advance to the Miss America pageant, but the reigning Miss Delaware will rely on a higher power to help her stay calm during the competition.

Wicks, 24, speed-painted Wonder Woman as her talent when she won the Miss Delaware title in June. She planned to paint the fictional superhero during her 90-second talent act in Atlantic City, N.J.

Drawing Wonder Woman seemed a perfect fit not only for Wicks, who teaches art at St. Thomas More Academy, Magnolia, but also for the competition.

“The Miss America organization (is) about empowering women and seeing women as strong individuals,” Wicks told The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del. “Thematically, Wonder Woman fits right in. She’s just awesome.”

But Wonder Woman won’t help Wicks beyond the talent segment during 12 days of appearances, rehearsals and competition, which was to end Sept. 9. Instead, Wicks will turn to God and her faith to “help calm me down (when) it gets really hectic.”

Wicks’ favorite Scripture passage, John 1:5, has helped her stay on task during the last year as she juggled her schedule to keep up with everything. That passage goes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.”

“Last school year was my first year at St. Thomas More and I was doing the Miss Wilmington and Miss Delaware (competitions), and I was in my last year of study for teacher certification,” Wicks said.

She became good friends with fellow St. Thomas More teacher Rebecca Gasperetti, who was first runner-up to Wicks in the Miss Delaware pageant. The two helped one another prepare for the contest. They also worked together on St. Thomas More’s spring production, “High School Musical,” with Gasperetti as director and Wicks as set designer.

The hectic pace continued in August as Wicks made appearances as Miss Delaware and practiced most of each day for the Miss America pageant, “whether it was mock interviews or practicing my talent.” She also packed for her trip, tended to her rescue dog, a shepherd mix named Chief, and prepared for the start of classes at the academy Sept. 4.

She will miss at least the first week of classes because of the competition – and two additional weeks should she be crowned Miss America – so she needed to have everything ready for substitute teachers during that period.

Wicks could easily have been overwhelmed by those different pressures but relied on St. John’s Gospel passage. “No matter what you are going through, nothing should dim your light,” she said.

Her students have a stake in Wicks’ success, though she thinks some of them did not see her as potential Miss America material when she announced she was seeking to become Miss Wilmington. “I dress differently for work – I get messy every day (teaching art) – than I do for the Miss Delaware side of things. (That’s) all glamorous and evening gowns and such.”

Wicks never imagined herself as a possible Miss America while growing up in Baltimore County, Md., one of two children of Andrew and Jodi Wicks. But she knew she wanted to teach. “I’m from a family of teachers,” she said, noting that her mother teaches high school English and a grandmother teaches middle school math.

Her first taste of pageant life came as a high school senior, when she entered he Miss Maryland Teen USA competition. She also participated in the Miss Delaware USA pageant in 2014 before joining the Miss America program. The Atlantic City competition marks her fifth pageant.

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