Remembering Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum

All Around Pennsauken was saddened to learn of the passing of Cara McCollum, a former Miss New Jersey and current anchor on the SNJ Today news program, who passed away from injuries sustained during a automobile crash on Feb. 15. In honor of Cara’s memory and her dedication to instilling a love of reading to children, we are highlighting an article about McCollum from our June 2014 issue.

Miss NJMiss New Jersey Visits Children At Pennsauken Library
By Melaine Zayas, AAP Intern

On Tuesday, April 22, Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum, visited the Pennsauken Free Public Library to read aloud to young children as part of the library’s celebration of Earth Day, as well as to promote her platform, “Giving the Gift of Reading,” a literacy program that reaches out to children across the state to celebrate reading.

Pursuing a Major in English, the pageant star returns to Princeton University this upcoming fall to complete her Bachelor’s degree. If one were to ask Miss New Jersey about her biggest passion, McCollum admits being a strong advocate of education. “This year, I’ve been able to travel all over the state to all different sorts of schools, telling kids reading is cool; it’s the vehicle to going to places in life.”

“The reason I got involved in pageants was so I can come do things like this,” added McCollum. “Due to being a student at Princeton, I didn’t know parents, kids or teachers to get into the classroom. I’ve always been passionate about literacy and promoting childhood literacy,” said McCollum.

The eager faces of children lit up in anticipation, as McCollum read aloud. She chose books relevant to Earth Day; in addition, McCollum questioned each child about their contributions to staying green. Miss New Jersey also fielded questions from the audience about a variety of different topics, from whom her favorite author was (F. Scott Fitzgerald) to whether or not she was single (McCollum is currently seeing someone).

Coming from a very small town in Arkansas, McCollum’s parents were always supportive about reading. “It was a way to get out of my small town and helped my imagination,” added McCollum. During her junior year of high school, the Miss NJ contestant formed a charity called the birthday book project. She gathered a group of 300 underprivileged children and gave each and every one of them a book for their birthday. As a result, the charity donated up to 5,000 books a year to children around the states of Arkansas and New Jersey.

“It is important for kids to gain imagination. There’s a cycle of poverty and educational apathy, reading is a way to break out of that and see our world through books.” McCollum advises parents to always read to their children and discover whatever it may be that sparks an interest.

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