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‘Miss Unlimited’ pageant celebrates love, beauty

May 22, 2015
Megan Clancy

Students from St. Ignatius College Preparatory, Carondelet High School and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory volunteered at the second annual “Miss Unlimited” pageant, hosted by NBC meteorologist Christina Loren. Sixteen participants, ages 5 to 39, joined the pageant, which was held at SHC on May 9.

Lead by SI student leaders Hart Ayoob and Haley Sullivan, student volunteers helped with arts and crafts, the dance party, stage managing, fundraising, set-up and clean-up on event day, collecting baked goods and serving as buddies to the participants who all had different types of disabilities.

“This pageant provides girls the opportunity to be recognized and not be overlooked and becomes a wonderful experience for the volunteers to work with them,” said Ayoob.

The smiling and singing students greeted the participants by clapping hands upon their arrival on the red carpeted steps outside the Sister Caroline Collins, DC, Theater. Next, the participants were immediately paired with eager student buddies to help them acclimate to various activities before stepping foot on stage. For example, one of the participants, Mara Clancy, was paired up with SI students Katrina Keating and Annie Pera. Together, they visited various activity stations throughout the day. 

“Through volunteering, I learned about special needs girls and how they are all so amazing, smart and courageous. They have some of the biggest hearts!” Pera said. “They’re so positive and appreciative, which made me as a volunteer feel so happy to be able to spend the day with them and develop long-term friendships.”

Some with dresses in tow, the participants immediately became busy with arts and crafts, coloring, talking with their student buddies, having makeovers (provided by the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology), being interviewed by one of the judges, and practicing their performances – some sang songs, danced to tunes, read poetry or gave presentations. On stage, judges Miss Silicon Valley Melissa Bowling; Sarah Meakin, executive director of the James S. Brady Therapeutic Riding Program; San Francisco Police Department Deputy Chief Garret Tom; Olympic Gold Medalist Heather Petri; and Miss West Coast Natalie Duvalsaint observed the participants’ performances where each participant received their own title at the end, and everyone was crowned a winner.

SI chemistry teacher Michelle Wynn established the first pageant last year with great success, and turned it into its own nonprofit. With a mission to celebrate the beauty everyone possesses, she said she is thrilled that alongside the participants, her own students have been examples of this beauty by their generosity, grace, leadership and love.

“My goal was that there was a bigger lesson in this – that through building this event, my students would realize what is truly beautiful inside of them, and that our message about beauty would spread throughout the entire community,” Wynn said.

Wynn might be spreading this message farther than she originally anticipated. Miss Thailand, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, has approached her to help create a pageant in the Philippines.

Megan Clancy is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles and maintains two blogs: https://meganclancy01.wordpress.com/ and https://artistsinnewyorkcity.wordpress.com/.

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