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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High Junior Crowned Miss Teen Of Utah

Aug 26, 2016 01:05PM ● By Julie Slama

An accomplished pianist, Megan Okumura played “Argentina” in the talent competition, which she won, in the Miss Teen of Utah pageant. — Sharon Okumura

Hillcrest High junior Megan Okumura wasn’t looking for a pageant to enter. In fact, the 16-year-old had never entered a pageant until a letter arrived in the mail inviting her, based upon her scholastic achievement, to compete in the Miss Teen of America pageant.
“This pageant was not a beauty pageant, (but it was) focused on scholastic achievements, service to school and community, personal development, general awareness of today’s world, personality, projection and confidence,” Megan said. “When people hear the word ‘pageant’ they immediately associate it with the word ‘beauty,’ but this specific pageant was designed to help youth in America reach their full potential and gain recognition for their hard work and achievements, not based on their looks. That was the most influential reason why I decided to participate.”
She also was motivated to compete when she learned the pageant was linked to the Special Olympics and the winner would receive a $250 inclusion event at the competitor’s high school.
“Having worked with special needs students in school and at my church, I decided it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to bring more awareness of the Special Olympics in Utah, if I won,” she said.
Although Megan prepared for the competition, she failed to prepare herself for being crowned Miss Teen of Utah.
“I was in awe when I won. I became so close with all the girls competing in my state that it didn’t matter if I won or not because I felt all the girls were qualified to represent the state of Utah, so my expectations were ‘whatever happens, happens. I will be happy with whoever wins.’ I honestly didn’t know it would be me who won, though. My family wasn’t prepared for me to win, either. They didn’t have their cameras ready or anything for the big moment,” she said.
Her dad, Mike, said winning wasn’t the goal, so he was caught off guard when his daughter was crowned.
“We were surprised and overwhelmed with happiness,” Okumura said. “As her parents, we always knew she was a wonderful person, but to see her crowned showed her that other people saw her great qualities, too. My wife [Sharon] and I had tears in our eyes because we came here to help Megan increase her self-confidence. Winning was not necessarily the goal so when she won, it was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and proudness.”
Okumura said that once Megan decided to enter the competition, she became more sure of herself while putting forth a lot of effort.
“Her mom told her that she would support anything she wanted to do and if this was something she was willing to put a lot of effort into, then go for it. Her mom asked her current event questions and they discussed issues together, but stressed that if she [Megan] wanted to win this, she would need to be herself and authentic. This [pageant] has increased her [Megan’s] self-confidence and given her more a greater sense of who she is and her abilities,” he said.
Megan said she researched previous titleholders for Miss Teen of America as well as talked to someone who had participated in pageants to help her feel more confident in answering questions.
“I did a lot of research on past titleholders for Miss Teen of America in order to prepare myself for qualities they were searching for in their title holder. The interview portion was 25 percent of the judging criteria, which made it imperative that I prepared for interview questions, as well as having confidence in who I was and what I stood for,” she said.
Megan said another portion of the pageant was a written test.
“You really can’t prepare for the written test. One question I was asked was ‘which make-up product expires the soonest?’ and the answer was mascara. Another was, ‘who is on the one-dollar bill?’ and the answer was George Washington,” she said.
Other categories of judging included scholastic record — Megan has a 3.987 grade-point average on a scale of 4.0; achievement and service to school and community; personality projection in formal wear; and personal development of talents and skills.
Megan, who has played piano for 10 years, played “Argentina” by Catherine Rollins for her talent competition. It was a piece she had performed for the Salt Lake South Valley Honors Concert, held at Assembly Hall on Temple Square. She has received 19 superior ratings the past 10 years in the National Music Piano Federation competition.
In addition to playing piano, Megan also competes for her school’s cross country team, is on the school honor roll and is a National Honor Society member.
Amongst other achievements, Megan has been the student body secretary, has received trophies in Utah Parent-Teacher Association’s Reflections arts program, received the American Institute of Chemical Engineers award at the regional science fair; received the third-place trophy in the Salt Lake Region History Fair; been involved in several service clubs; been involved in Model United Nations, math and chess clubs; written and directed a Stake Young Women’s Play for her church and is a weekly volunteer at the Utah Humane Society.
In addition to the title, and hosting a Special Olympics event at Hillcrest High, Megan received $1,000, which she plans to use to attend college at Brigham Young University. She hopes to write children’s books as well as become a special needs teacher.
“I have had much experience in working with special needs in my church and at my school, and I am currently learning sign language in order to communicate with everyone. I have two cousins who were born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and growing up around them influenced me to want to be involved more with special needs,” said Megan, who works as a special needs peer tutor.
Megan, who plans to speak to elementary-age children about Special Olympics, will compete for the national title Nov. 20 in Minneapolis.