The final evening of the 2014 California State Youth Accolades Scholarship Competition on July 25 at the Santa Clara Convention Center began with Madison Wackerman and Horst Bauer, the previous year’s upper division winners, singing the National Anthem and reciting the Youth Focus creed, respectively. Next came the speech and stage art competitions, tribute performances and musical numbers by the show’s cast, which included former Miss Santa Clara County and former Miss Santa Clara Melissa Bowling. The evening ended with the announcement of the new California State representatives in the upper division, teen and junior categories.
“It’s important to have a venue where people can showcase talents, build self-esteem, learn leadership skills and get scholarship money,” says Patricia Burke, a resident of Santa Clara who serves on the board of directors of Youth Focus, Inc., the organization hosting the competition.
Gabrielle Blackhurst, a junior at Santa Clara High School, competed as Miss North-South All Star.
“I want to be a Broadway actress, and it’s a hard field to get into,” Blackhurst says. “I’d like to help coach people and give lessons in dancing, acting and singing. I’ve been singing my whole life. [For my stage art], I’m performing ‘Bound to You’ by Christina Aguilera from Burlesque. It’s unusual for me to pick a lower register song because I’m a natural soprano, but I like that the song has a lot of rifts.”
Giovanna Mitchell, a senior at Monterey’s Santa Catalina Girls’ Upper School, competed as Miss Santa Clara County. Mitchell cites her mother, who graduated from Santa Clara University’s law school, as an inspiration in her ambition to be an attorney someday.
“I like arguing cases and fighting for people’s rights,” Mitchell says. “[For my stage art], I’m playing variations of Canon in D on the harp. Last night, I gave a speech about bringing music and entertainment to the senior and medically infirmed members of the community.”
Pauline Rogers, a 10 year-old student from Fremont’s Mission Valley Elementary School, entered the competition as the Junior Ambassadress of Santa Clara County.
“Last night, I performed the Disney version of MuLan’s ‘Reflection,'” Rogers says. “In my speech, I talk about myself. If I win…I can be a role model to thousands of minority students.”
Myklyn Balmut, who entered as Miss Los Angeles County, won $3,000 and the honor of being named the new Miss California State. Balmut, a junior at the University of Southern California, aspires to be a Naval officer and hopes to promote lupus awareness, as a patient of the disease. Charles Priest, who entered as Manteca’s Young Man of Achievement, also won $3,000 and is the new California State Ambassador. Priest, a junior at U.C. Davis, aspires to be an engineer and promote awareness of concussions in sports.