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Miss South Dakota Carrie Wintle reads her book, “Mr. Money $heep” to elementary students as part of her platform on educating youth about the foundations of financial literacy. Photo courtesy of Carrie Wintle

Miss South Dakota Carrie Wintle uses her platform to talk about agriculture and financial literacy

In early September, when Miss South Dakota Carrie Wintle traveled to Atlantic City, N.J., to compete for the Miss America crown, she gave a nod to her agricultural roots. In the iconic Show Me Your Shoes Parade, she wore a bold costume complete with high-heels shaped like an ear of corn.

"I grew up on a farm in the heart of South Dakota and cherish the memories I have from my childhood," said Wintle. "I wanted my costume to reflect everything I love about South Dakota. One of my favorite things about our state, is how you can see miles and miles of beautiful green wheat, grass and crop fields in the spring. And, then, in the fall, those fields turn a luscious golden brown. It is breathtaking. I wanted my costume to reflect that. The costume gradually changed from a golden brown to a deep green, cape included, and shoes with a corn cob heel topped the look off."

The greens and gold perfectly offset Wintle's rich auburn hair, making her unforgettable in the parade. Her look set the stage for the rest of the weekend, where she wowed the crowd with her evening gown and played "The Final Countdown" on a white grand piano for the judges' evaluation.

"There is nothing like living out your wildest dreams," said Wintle. "Miss America was everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. I competed at Miss South Dakota five times before I won the coveted job. It is an honor to serve the state of South Dakota."

While Wintle's perseverance paid off in achieving this goal, her platform is what really makes this Miss South Dakota shine. Leaning on her four-year degrees in accounting and mathematics, which she received from the University of South Dakota, and her masters in accounting from Vanderbilt, Wintle established a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Money $heep, which helps youth build a financial foundation.

"Growing up on a farm, I had a wonderful opportunity to learn money management through raising sheep," said Wintle. "I had to know about budgeting, income and saving. That savings became a means to invest in more sheep. I was able to learn those important financial principles and it became a habit very early in life. As I grew older, I've realized what an important foundation those financial lessons were for me. I was able to avoid the trap of credit card debt because of careful budgeting. Developing the book, Mr. Money-$heep, is my way of sharing those lessons with young people to set them up for financial success."

Wintle has published two children's books — "Mr. Money $heep" and "Mr. Money $heep and the Financial Foes," which are both available for purchase at money-sheep.com.

"This past school year I partnered with over 20 regional businesses, service clubs and organizations to donate 10,000 copies of Mr. Money $heep to third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students across South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa," said Wintle. "The book donation went to over 160 schools and after-school programs and was meant to celebrate financial literacy month and provide youth with a financial education resource."

"We were able to take the lessons taught in Mr. Money $heep and bring some real-world application to the classroom," said Karla Rupp, an elementary school teacher at Freeman Academy in Freeman, S.D. "Last year, after our students read Mr. Money $heep, they collected pop cans, and with that income, they created a budget to purchase things for our classroom, a stepping stone for the school's walkway, as well as one for the local nursing home, and they even donated S100 to the high school students for their upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. We are looking forward to Carrie coming to our school this fall and to continue teaching our kids about financial literacy."

Wintle's work on the platform of financial literacy earned her the Miss America Women in Business Scholarship at the Miss America competition. Money $heep is backed by agricultural industry sponsors, including the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, who helped sponsor the book donations across the state's 66 counties.

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