SCHS students compete in teen pageants

Ten girls sashayed across the stage in Wilcox High School’s theatre on Jan. 8. All of their training and dedication led them to their big day: competing for the title of Miss Santa Clara’s Outstanding Teen.

The MSCOT pageant is part of the the Miss America Organization, and its primary goal is to help their contestants with academic success. The Miss America Organization gives out millions in scholarships to women in order to further their education. Every contestant of the MSCOT pageant received scholarship money, three of whom, freshman Melisa Beslagic, sophomore Natalie DeSousa and junior Alicia Luong, are from SCHS.

The winner of the 2017 MSCOT pageant, Jennifer Smith, believes the pageant does more than help with academic success. She thinks it helps with life skills and confidence.

“This pageant helps you realize who you are and to be proud of your accomplishments,” Smith said.

Some believe that pageants are stereotypical and that girls are competing for the sake of vanity. But one of the MSCOT volunteers, Melissa Bowling, who was a winner of Miss Santa Clara 2010 and Miss Silicon Valley 2015, disagrees. She doesn’t believe vanity has anything to do with the goal of the pageant.

“It’s not about picking the most beautiful woman but getting to know her during the interview, reading her resume, learning more about her platform to better the community and seeing how she can answer a question under pressure,” Bowling said.

The competition has teenage girls go through specific onstage tasks, such as being interviewed, performing a talent, answering a question, walking the stage in a evening gown and completing a fitness test.

“It is not easy to get up on the stage and be judged by six strangers,” executive director of Miss Santa Clara, Stephanie Quientl, said, “so I admire every girl that gets up on that stage.”

In the end, winning or losing didn’t matter to the girls ‒  it was about the lessons they learned, the friendships they made and the once-in-a-lifetime experience they had.

“I have competed for three years, and every year I learn more,” said Desousa, second runner-up contestant. “It is truly an amazing experience and worth every second.”