At the 2023 Miss Mission City and Miss Santa Clara Competition held on Feb. 4 at the Community Recreation Center, Cate Carlin, Executive Director of the Miss Mission City Organization and Melissa Gialdini, Emcee, paid a moving tribute to the late Tony Moises, a beloved interview coach and emcee who mentored contestants and hosted scholarship competitions throughout California.
Sadly, Moises passed away unexpectedly in May 2022. In his honor, Gialdini opened the program by singing “For Good” from Wicked. Carlin announced the interview award has been renamed “The Tony Moises Overall Interview Award.”
“Tony was someone who made everyone feel very comfortable and he had a gift of making us feel confident and prepared for not only the interview portion of the Miss America pageant but for any interview or speaking in general,” Gialdini said of Moises.
Being Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen 2008, Miss Santa Clara 2010 and Miss Silicon Valley 2015, Gialdini said she had big shoes to fill but was happy to give back as a former titleholder.
At the end of the pageant, Kimberly Vernon, 26, of Santa Clara, was crowned Miss Santa Clara 2023. Vernon is currently the Head Coach for the Color Guard Team at Santa Clara High School. Vernon’s social impact initiative is “Arts for All,” which she described as “advocating for accessible arts programming for everyone but specifically for our youth and our community.”
“I would really love to go into the schools in Santa Clara and talk about why the arts is important,” Vernon said. “I hope to go to the Art and Wine Festival, connect with nonprofit organizations and talk to our City Council and our School Board.”
Vernon also won the talent award for her vibrant color guard routine to BTS’s “Dynamite,” where she tossed a sabre, or a metal sword, into the air and caught it while doing the splits. The combined awards of this California State University, Fullerton graduate added up to an $850 scholarship that could go toward a professional certificate program.
Miss Mission City 2023 is Ellee Kennedy, 26, of Rocklin, whose social impact initiative is “Putting the A in STEM through Music Therapy.”
“When I was growing up, around 10 years old through 17 years old, I was a patient of the bone marrow transplant clinic at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital,” Kennedy said. “I had a blood disease which required me to get 10 hours of blood infusions a couple of times a month. During these transfusions, I was hooked up to a machine. I relied on music during that time. I would sing and listen to music as I received my blood transfusions.”
“I’m planning to start a blog up to educate and advocate for the benefits of music therapy,” Kennedy continued. “This blog will include free resources, such as virtual concerts, and information about grant opportunities that educational institutions and hospitals can take advantage of.”
To spread her message, Kennedy also plans to implement a YouTube channel and partner with local hospitals. Kennedy’s $750 scholarship will help pay for her student loan debts from the University of Miami.
Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen 2023 is Emma Kedilerli, 16, of Los Angeles. College tuition in pre-med studies is where this high school junior plans to apply her $650 scholarship. Kedilerli’s award money came from her title win and awards for her interview and talent act, where she performed a high-spirited Middle Eastern dance to Mezdeke’s “Wana Wana.”
Kedilerli plans to promote her social impact initiative, “Generation Aviation,” by running a club at an elementary school.
“I’m a pilot,” Kedilerli said. “Being one of the few teenagers and females in this field, I want to inspire other women and teens who are interested to seek resources and opportunities that are available so they can learn how to be a pilot.”