At the Mission City Center for Performing Arts on Jan.13, the Miss Santa Clara Organization hosted its 2018 Scholarship Competitions. During the afternoon competition, young ladies vied for the title of 2018’s Miss Santa Clara, Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Silicon Valley’s Outstanding Teen.
“I’m really excited that we’re giving out $18,500 in scholarships in 2018,” said Stephanie Quintal, Executive Director of the Miss Santa Clara Organization. “We are one of the few locals left in California that give scholarships to everybody who participates. Each girl gets a minimum of $250 just for being on stage today.”
During the on-stage question segment, Miss Santa Clara contestant Ashley Wong said that universities should revisit how they spend money to reduce tuition costs. Antarpreet Dhariwal suggested that more low income housing can solve the problem of Silicon Valley’s high cost of living. During the talent segment, Ashley Santos performed wild back flips while jazz dancing to a mashup of “Once Upon a Dream.” Alicia Luong’s fingers got a workout on the piano while playing Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca. During the evening wear segment, Sydney Johnson wore a black dress with bright silver floral lining along the seams.
Miss Santa Clara 2018 is Taylor Yamane, 19, a sophomore at Santa Clara University who is studying Mechanical Engineering. Minutes after being crowned, Yamane was flashing a megawatt smile in her royal blue evening dress with a gemmed lattice pattern covering her back.
“My platform is called Full STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Ahead,” Yamane said. “I try to encourage young people everywhere, especially young girls, to join a STEM field if this is something they are passionate about. I am a woman engineer and I want to use my platform to show females everywhere that they can be in a STEM field too. I want to do school visits and work with the Society of Women Engineers at my school to put on events to advocate for women being in STEM.”
Pointing out that the “A” in STEAM stands for the “Arts,” Yamane demonstrated her interest in the arts during the talent segment. Her bold voice came through in “I’ve Got Rhythm,” a sassy jazz song.
“I try to live out STEAM in my own life to show that engineers can also have creative passions,” Yamane said. “My mom says I’ve been singing since I could talk and make noise.”
Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen 2018 is Natalie DeSousa, 16, a junior at Santa Clara High School. Looking vibrant in her fire engine red evening gown, DeSousa revealed that this was her fourth year competing for the title. DeSousa also won the Talent Award for her high-spirited jazz dance to “New York, New York,” which came with fouette turns (spinning with one foot on the ground) and aerials (flips without hands on the ground).
“I learned to dance through Santa Clara’s Parks & Recreation Department,” DeSousa said. “Miss Linnea Sheehy, a former Miss Santa Clara, is my dance teacher. I’m also a dance teacher assistant for Miss Linnea. Miss Linnea picked the ‘New York, New York’ song for me. I got to go to New York last April and it was a really cool experience. I got to channel that New York energy into my dance.”
DeSousa’s platform is the Girls Empowerment Project, which started as a club at her school.
“My friend Sofia started it and I’ve been a part of this since the beginning,” DeSousa said. “We helped to host an event were we sold Rafiki bracelets. Rafiki means friend [in Swahili]. We sold these bracelets to help serve women and children in Ecuador. I plan to expand the Girls Empowerment Project to other schools.”
Visit www.misssantaclara.org for a complete list of winners.