The afternoon of Jan. 7 started off with a graceful song that echoed throughout the Mission City Center for Performing Arts. Melissa Bowling, Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen 2008 and Miss Santa Clara 2010, sang the National Anthem and opened up the annual Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Competition. Each contestant received scholarship money for their participation.
Many highlights marked the lively afternoon. Chaes Kufis gave an upbeat tumbling performance. Mia Stevens tap danced in a fluorescent pink flapper dance costume. Cathy Vu played a romantic serenade on the violin. Alexis Chavez showed some hip moves in a tap dance number. Hannah Villalpando sang with expression from Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”
At the end of the afternoon, Ashley Wong, 14, was named Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen. Just minutes after being crowned, this Wilcox High School student was cheerful and glowing in her elegant pink evening gown with a rose accent.
“This is very cool,” Wong says of her win. “I was feeling surprised [when I heard my name] and it showed on my face. Last year, I got some experience being in this pageant and so I knew what to expect this year.”
For the talent portion of the competition, Wong performed Bach’s Prelude from Suite No. 1 on her viola in a lovely black and white polka dot dress.
“I’d struggled with remembering the music for my talent performance, but I knew I was going to pull through and I did,” she says.
Wong’s platform is “Why Music Matters.” As a student in the Wilcox High School Orchestra, Wong plans to create a club at her school to raise money to purchase new musical equipment.
The first-runner up was Tiah Esquibel, a student at Santa Clara High School, who also won awards for talent and physical fitness. For the talent segment, Esquibel performed a fun jazz dance with many fancy spins and twirls.
“I worked hard for this,” says Esquibel. “I accomplished what I wanted though I would still like to improve. I practiced my talent about two times per week. And I go to dance practice afterschool.”
Cathy Vu, a student at Santa Clara High School, was the second-runner up who also took home an award for her evening wear and on-stage question. On stage, Vu was asked a question about her favorite Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen titleholder. In a midnight blue gown with a mermaid cut, Vu calmly responded, “My favorite Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen is Molly Crawford because she inspired me to continue and have fun with this program.”
Performances by Molly Crawford, Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen 2011, and Jessa Carmack, Miss California’s Outstanding Teen 2011, were crowd pleasers. During a brief question and answer session Carmack had with Jackie Geist, Miss California 2008, Carmack revealed that she had earned about $8,000 in scholarships from her participation in scholarship competitions, such as Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen and Miss California’s Outstanding Teen.
Outstanding Teen Scholarship Awards
Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen $2,000: Ashley Wong
First Runner-Up, Teen: $600: Tiah Esquibel
Second Runner-Up, Teen $400: Cathy Vu
Non-Finalists (4 @ $200 each) $800: Chaes Kufis, Mia Stevens, Hannah Villalpando, Alexis Chavez
Interview Award $100: Hannah Villalpando
Talent Award $100: Tiah Esquibel
Physical Fitness Award $100: Tiah Esquibel
Evening Wear Award/On-Stage Question $100: Cathy Vu
Miss Congeniality Award $100: Mia Stevens
Spirit of Competition Award $100: Hannah Villalpando
Community Service Award $100: Hannah Villalpando