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Miss Victoria focuses on special needs children

By Bianca Montes
Aug. 7, 2013 at 3:07 a.m.

Emilia Ureste, 17, reacts after facing the crowd during the Miss division's casual-wear portion of the Miss Victoria Pageant held July 13.

Category Winners

Miss Victoria

Miss Photogenic - Sabrina Emiliano

Miss Congeniality - Scarlett Elsik

Junior Miss

Miss Photogenic - Kylee Tipton

Miss Congeniality - McKynzie Bartee

Young Miss

Miss Photogenic - Macie Kolodziejczyk

Miss Congeniality - Taylor Bearden

Little Miss

Miss Photogenic - Violet Matson

Miss Congeniality - Alize Bethancourt

Meet Miss Victoria

Miss Victoria and her court will make appearances throughout the year.

Some of their upcoming events include the Health Fair for the Hispanic Family in August, Dorothy O'Connor Pet Center Fundraiser in September and Down Syndrome League of Victoria Buddy Walk in October.

When Emilia Ureste was a little girl, she wanted to hold her baby brother all of the time.

"I was 5, and it was always, 'Me hold him. Me hold him,'" she said.

A few years later, she decided she would be a professional babysitter when she grew up.

Now, as she prepares to enter her senior year at Victoria East High School, Emilia knows exactly how she will hone in on her love for children - at a hospital as a neonatal nurse.

Emilia, 17, was crowned Miss Victoria in July and plans to use her platform to spread awareness about and provide classroom materials to special needs children. She is teaming up with the nonprofit medical clinic Stars.

Stars, formerly known as Child Study Clinic, serves children with special needs from birth to 21 years of age.

The state-funded clinic, run by Dr. Marisol Ortiz, works with children from as early as birth through the critical neonatal period and then follows up with care at the center, said registered nurse Becky Garcia.

"If I won, I knew I wanted to do something that was in line with my future," Emilia said. "It's really good for me because it will show me if this is what I really want to do with my future."

Emilia plans to reach out to area schools to collect supplies to donate to the children serviced by Stars.

Pageant sponsor Debbie Bennett Green said title-holders choose a platform that is dear to their heart because she wants them to be passionate about their cause.

The Miss Victoria court also participates in several service activities, such as the Autism Walk and the No Bullies Allowed campaign.

"Miss Victoria Pageant is not just a beauty pageant, she said. "These girls work hard. It's not glitz and glamour."

Emilia selected her platform because the children at Stars Pediatric Center need the help.

"Those kids are going to be our future generation," she said.

Emilia also was crowned the Junior Miss Victoria in 2011 and focused her platform on self-defense for girls.

At the time, she said, the cause hit close to home because a person reported being attacked at the hike and bike trail in Victoria.

"I thought awareness needed to be brought to the community," she said.

Emilia organized a self-defense class taught by the Victoria Police Department for girls ages 8 and up.

Emilia said having a platform is what inspired her to compete again this year.

"You're not standing on a float for a year and waving," she said.

Two traits the judges remember about Emilia were her smile and her personality, said judge Melissa Crowley.

Outside of being a judge, Crowley, of Victoria, said she is a domestic engineer and runs her embroidery business, Funky Divas, from home.

"It's very hard to judge a pageant," Crowley said. "They're all so nice and outgoing, but we're really looking for a girl who is both beautiful on the inside and the outside."

Emilia, the daughter of Eden Yaklin and Mark Ureste, said she is not sure whether she will continue to compete in pageants after high school but, if given the opportunity, she would like to.

Pageants, she said, have given her confidence to be a role model to other girls.

"Some little girls have never seen someone with a dress and a crown with a sash," she said. "Looking specifically at that little girl and waving to that girl specifically, they'll remember that experience for months.

"You make them feel so special because they look up to you. It's just surreal."

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