Exeleon Magazine

Interview with Miss Pennsylvania – Meghan Sinisi

Meghan Sinisi_Miss Pennsylvania_Exeleon Magazine

In an Exclusive Interview with Exeleon Magazine, Miss Pennsylvania winner Meghan Sinisi talks about winning the prestigious competition, being a role model to women leaders, and her vision going forward.

What led you to compete in the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Competition?

During my freshman year at Syracuse University, I was excited to watch the Miss America competition because I learned that the young woman representing New York, Nina Davuluri, was a Syracuse native. In my freshman dorm room at SU, I witnessed Nina be crowned Miss America 2013 as the first Indian American woman to earn the prestigious title. A few weeks later, I had an opportunity to meet Nina in person when she returned to Syracuse for a homecoming celebration. Her intelligence, charisma, kindness, and beauty were astounding to me, and for a fleeting moment, I considered getting involved in the Miss America Organization.

I wasn’t convinced, though, as I was a bit intimidated by the thought of being judged based on subjective standards of “beauty”. It wasn’t until the following year when I met Miss New York 2014, Jillian Tapper, that I learned all that the Miss America Organization offers young women – opportunities to create change through a social impact initiative, to develop professionally as a female leader, to highlight commitment to excellence through a chosen talent, and to earn academic scholarships. I immediately registered for my first competition, and a few months later, I earned my first title at a local preliminary to the Miss America competition.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in health science, speech, language and hearing sciences? What avenues has this opened for you in terms of career options or your personal interests?

Throughout my whole life, I knew I had a special desire to help others. When I was young, I thought that would mean someday caring for sick and injured patients as a nurse, but in my senior year of high school, I became curious in learning about students with disabilities. I asked my aunt who worked in the special education department if I could visit the students in the special education classroom. Prior to this experience, I shared a much-too-common misunderstanding about disabled people. Society had taught me that most people with disabilities cannot live independently or achieve the same level of success as non-disabled people. When I asked for the opportunity to interact closely with disabled students in my high school, I quickly learned how terribly false these ideas are.

That day, I met a classroom of students who showed me that if our world viewed disabilities from a new perspective and gave every single person a fair opportunity, a person could accomplish anything they desire. I was frustrated that it had taken 18 years for me to be given the opportunity to see people with disabilities as more than meets the eye and I started to understand how our world does not adequately empower disabled people. I enrolled at Syracuse University with thoughts of pursuing special education or social work as a career. When I explored communication sciences and disorders, I fell in love with how being a speech-language pathologist would allow me to help people with autism and other disabilities find, strengthen, and actively use their voices to achieve success.

As Miss Pennsylvania, what impact do you hope to have on other young women? What do you hope to achieve with this platform that is now available to you?

Being Miss Pennsylvania has awarded me the incredible platform to serve as a role model for women of all ages and backgrounds. I wish to not only make an impact for those on the autism spectrum, but also to inspire women to pursue their wildest dreams and uplift one another. I never would have imagined that I would compete for Miss America, but through the opportunities that life has presented me, and by listening to the calling that God has placed on my heart, I have discovered exactly who I am destined to be through my role as an advocate in the Miss America Organization.

Through this experience, I have developed in indescribable ways, and I want to inspire other women to embrace their unique journeys so they can discover their own path to success as well. Especially being the only girl amongst three brothers, I have always desired to enter spaces where I could be a part of a sisterhood. When I leave this earth, I want to be remembered for my commitment to excellence, integrity, kindness, and for empowering other women.

As a person who is not disabled herself but advocates for disability rights, I want to demonstrate to others how powerful it is to care about the things that do not impact us directly. Through this we develop empathy for others’ lived experiences and become allies to the people we share communities with.

Meghan Sinisi_Miss Pennsylvania_Exeleon Magazine

As you are an advocate for those on the autism spectrum, please tell us a bit more about your non-profit, From A New Perspective?

As an autism advocate, I want to continue developing From a New Perspective (my 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) to become a nationally known autism resource. From a New Perspective’s main objective is to challenge the misconceptions surrounding autism and what those on the spectrum can accomplish. I want to help venues in public spaces, such as airports and sports arena, implement sensory rooms that would allow more people with autism and other disabilities access meaningful community experiences.

I want to equip law enforcement officers and first responders with trainings that adequately prepare them to respond and appropriately assist people with autism in overwhelming and stressful situations. I hope to also provide training to employers to make the workplace more accessible for those with autism and to educate employers on the value of hiring neurodivergent employees. Finally, I hope to train college campuses to make similar accommodations and to award annual academic scholarships for students with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders to successfully pursue higher education. Currently, I co-host a podcast series titled Spectrum Sundays, which is now streamed in 17+ countries, and equips autism professionals and self-advocates with the platform to share their stories and inspire acceptance, respect, and inclusion for people with disabilities.

What is your most impactful memory as Miss Pennsylvania?

I have been blessed with a few memories that stand out to me as impactful in my year of service as Miss Pennsylvania. Some of the most beautiful moments have been the ones that no one sees. An example was when an employee at the Miss PA Scholarship Foundation’s vehicle sponsor, Hanover Volkswagen in Hanover, PA, took me hand-in-hand and asked to pray love, safety, and courage over me as I serve others and travel across the state.

Another was when I addressed the Pennsylvania State Senate regarding disability access, inclusion, and rights. Immediately afterwards, Senator Christine Tartaglione, who is a wheelchair user, approached me and thanked me for my world – a moment I felt I had made a true impact as a disability advocate. Finally, my one of my most proud accomplishments as Miss Pennsylvania was earning the top Women in Business award and a $10,000 scholarship amongst 150+ applicants across the nation at the 100th Anniversary Miss America Competition in December 2021. This memory will continually serve as a reminder of my ability to make an impact as a speech-language pathologist, an entrepreneur, and a business owner.

As a role model for women in business, what do you see as the greatest challenges facing women in business, and what can we do to alleviate these challenges?

The greatest challenges facing women in business are underrepresentation in positions of leadership and significant gender wage gaps. Although we have made an incredible amount of progress in women’s rights, we continue to face inequity in business and professional opportunities. Globally, women only hold 24% of senior leadership positions and in the U.S., only 8% of CEOs at Fortune 500 Companies are female.

Additionally, women earn roughly 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. I am proud to be a woman in business who is eager to dismantle the stereotypes of where women are expected to be seen and to serve as a role model for women to be changemaking leaders. Collectively, our globe must continue to fight to inequity and discrimination against women in all spaces, especially in the workplace. It is a complicated and systemic issue to combat, but the ways I believe we accomplish this is for women to relentlessly demand for legislative change and accountability that ensures fair opportunities. There is also a remarkable power in allyship, therefore, men must speak out against injustice toward women and minorities in the workplace. When women join the ranks of leadership, the next generation of women are inspired as well, and we are able to make profound progress toward success in business.

As a role model for young adults, and women in particular, what advice do you give them to keep them motivated through these challenging and unprecedented times?

The advice I give to young adults and women during these challenging and unprecedented times is to strive every day to make your future self-proud and to remain motivated in how your unique skill sets and strengths can benefit the world around you. Each day is a new opportunity to inch closer to your aspirations and change the trajectory of your future.

What are your goals for the future and where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

My career ambition is to own and operate an interdisciplinary clinic for children with disabilities and communication disorders. I want my clinic to be a place where families feel confident in the care their children receive and for it to be an avenue of hope for a child’s future, independence, and success. My graduate program at the University of Missouri placed high priority in interprofessional collaboration.

Through this, I was able to learn how other professions can work toward a common goal to improve a person’s quality of life. I loved the concept of combining unique and specialized fields of expertise to offer the best possible care for a client. Understanding how each therapy professional and health care provider contributes to a child’s well-being inspired my dream of opening a private practice that works across a variety of disciplines. I especially aspire for this clinic to provide reliable diagnostic and therapy services to communities who do not currently have access to high-quality care.

Until this goal comes to fruition, I will provide therapy services as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, immerse myself in learning all there is to know about being an impactful woman in business leadership, and begin to pursue a doctorate degree. In the next 5 years, I hope to be a wife and mother who, like many females across the globe, demonstrates that a woman can be a loving and caring pillar of support in a family while also being a trailblazing, ambitious, and successful professional.

Read Digital Version.

Contact Meghan Sinisi on LinkedIn.

Trailblazing Women Leaders_Exeleon Magazine_Logo

Read Previous

Women Shaping the Future of Agriculture

Read Next

Michael Gulotta: The Dynamic Attorney