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Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler Crowned Miss America 2012 (See Pics!)

January 15th, 2012 1:00pm EST

Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler Beautiful 23-year-old Kenosha, Wisconsin native Laura Kaeppeler was crowned Miss America 2012 on Saturday night at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, edging out first runner up Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson in the final round of the annual beauty pageant.

Kaeppeler, the first Miss America from the state of Wisconsin since 1972, received a $50,000 scholarship, which she plans to use to put herself through law school and go into politics. She'll also hold the crown until next year's pageant and travel the country as an ambassador of the Miss America Organization, which is the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. The organization gave out over $45 million in scholarship assistance in 2011.

Laura received her crown from reigning 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan, named the youngest ever Miss America last year at 17-years-old, along with a huge bouquet of roses.

The event was hosted by Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke

Check out Laura explaining why she should be chosen as Miss America in her pre-show video, complete with Wisconsin accent...

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Check out more pics of Laura's big night, including her talent performance and a few of her outfits - including, of course, her photos from the swimsuit part of the competition...

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The crowning moment...

Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan

The beauty queen's platform during the competition was helping and mentoring children of incarcerated adults, as her father spent 18 months in prison on mail fraud charges.

Kaeppeler estimates there to be somewhere around two million children who currently have a parent in prison and says "it doesn't have to define you."

"What happened with my father is not what my year is going to be focused on," she tells the Associated Press. "It's going to be focused on looking forward and moving to the future because that's what my family has done and that's what I'll encourage others to do, as well."

Her talent? Opera singing...

As far as that political career goes - Laura was asked during the competition if she thinks Miss America should voice her personal political views.

"Miss America represents everyone," she says, "so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well.

"And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all."

Post show press conference

Runners up Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson and Miss Arizona Jennifer Sedler

Related: Brooke Burke, Laura Kaeppeler, Teresa Scanlan, Starpulse Exclusives, Fashion, Celebrity

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Photo Credits: ABC/Craig Sjodin

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