2013 Little Miss Victoria reign ends (w/video)

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

July 12, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.

Junior Miss Victoria contestant Jillian Brooks waits backstage for her turn onstage during the Miss Victoria Pageant on Saturday.

Junior Miss Victoria contestant Jillian Brooks waits backstage for her turn onstage during the Miss Victoria Pageant on Saturday.

Ambree Vaclavik, 7, worked hard as Little Miss Victoria in 2013. The youngster handed over her crown to Jolie Lambert, 7, at the Miss Victoria Pageant in the Victoria Fine Arts Center on Saturday evening.

Other members of the newly crowned court include Brittany Newyear, 18, who won Miss Victoria; Kelsey Kallman, 15, who was crowned Junior Miss Victoria; and Chloe Morales, 9, who took home the Young Miss Victoria crown.

"My platform is 'Rainbow of Hope' to help someone in crisis," Ambree said.

The crisis hit close to home for Ambree. Steven Palacios, her 22-year-old hip-hop dance instructor, lost his home and his beloved Chihuahua named Duke in a fire.

Ambree surprised Palacios on stage Saturday with a $500 check. Kamin Furniture also donated a framed print.

"At that age, she is working wonders for me," Palacios said. "We train them to change the world, and she is changing my world, definitely."

Palacios is living with his uncle until the city removes what remains of his charred home on Park Avenue. His goal is to live in a mobile home on the property.

"I expected to see him crumble after this tragedy, but he has faith in God," said Debbie Bennett Green, pageant director. "His No. 1 concern was that his grandmother was OK."

Green describes Palacios as a dedicated and loyal employee who loves children. To help him recover from Duke's death, she gave him a Chihuahua puppy, whom he named Baby.

Gloria Martinez, Ambree's grandmother, drove her granddaughter past Palacios' house after the fire. Astonished that "Mr. Steve" lost his home, Ambree told her grandmother that she wanted to help.

Joshua Vaclavik, Ambree's father, drove his daughter around their neighborhood to solicit donations from neighbors for Palacios. She thanked them with handshakes and hugs on their doorsteps.

"She has learned that she can serve the community and make a difference in the lives of others," Martinez said.

Ambree and her mother, Katherine Vaclavik, also collected donations for Palacios at a table during intermission and after the pageant.

Ambree has gained overall confidence through the pageant experience, her mother said.

"She was shy and wouldn't initiate conversation with people, and now, she is confident, and she talks," her mother said.

Green said she loves to witness the transformations young girls make when they participate in her pageants.

"They won't look up at first," Green said. "And by the end, they look up and scan the audience."

A former Miss Victoria contacted Green after her first job interview. She told her mentor that all the lessons she had learned by participating in pageants and representing her hometown had helped her.

"I've had employers call to give compliments to my girls after interviews," Green said.

Pageant contestants gain life skills, such as public speaking and poise, Green said.

"This is not a glitzy type of pageant," Green said. "This is a community service program."

The court works throughout the year to give back to the community, Green said. They pick a platform, make appearances at fundraisers and other community events and represent Victoria in numerous parades throughout the Crossroads.



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