Contrary to the images portrayed on TV shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” not all girls who wear a crown are self-absorbed divas.
Look no further than right here in Manteca for proof that young people of achievement can affect positive change and be great role models as evidenced by the youth representatives with Manteca Youth Focus, a 20-year landmark community organization which has awarded over $50,000 in educational scholarships to over 250 youth ages 10-20 within our community.
This week we will crown a new Miss Young Manteca. One lucky young woman will be join a select group as the 16th young lady chosen to represent the City of Manteca. The crown and sash, sponsored by Manteca Youth Focus, are also accompanied by a $200 scholarship to help them on their way to funding a college education. In 1998, MYF created the program as an addition to their existing scholarship competitions for ages 13-15 and 16-20. That year Ashley Gerstel and Matt Vaughan took home the top honors and set the ‘gold standard’ for their predecessors to follow. This year’s competition will showcase 4 young ladies and will take place on Saturday, March 14, at 11 a.m. at Calvary Community Church in Manteca.
Current reigning Miss Young Manteca 2014, Sydnee Alexandra Navarro, this past weekend she delivered her farewell remarks to over 150 attendees at the annual Leadership Luncheon held in recognition of all of the 2014 MYF scholarship recipients. Mayor Steve DeBrum and Council Members Vince Hernandez and Mike Morowit were on hand to bestow their congratulations and certificates of commendation to Navarro and her co-captains. Navarro was also recognized by the Board of Directors of Manteca Youth Focus for the completion of her advocacy project and received the Gold Level President’s Volunteer Service Award conferred by the Points of Light Foundation and signed by President Barack Obama.
Navarro, 11, attends Walter Woodward Elementary School. For her advocacy project, she had originally planned to help collect bears and books for the HOPE Family Shelter & Raymus Family House and their monthly “Birthday Buddies” program. However, after further research, she discovered that that was not their greatest need. So she adapted her plan and decided to host a holiday giving tree to benefit the two family-oriented shelters operated by HOPE Ministries, Inc. She set up the tree at her mother’s place of business and employees from over 4 companies contributed toys, clothing and gifts for 14 families in total (57 adult and child residents).
Additionally, she sold loom bracelets which she crafted herself and was able to also give a $200 cash donation directly to the shelter. Navarro also didn’t want the few books and bears that she had initially collected for her first project to go to waste, and so she wrote a letter to Andy Prokop, the CEO of the United Way of San Joaquin County, to let him know that she was donating the books to the Mary Graham Children’s Shelter and to seek his assistance in identifying an agency to receive the bears she had collected. Prokop was so impressed with her letter, that he attended the luncheon on Saturday to meet her and commend her publicly for her professionalism and dedication to service at such a young age.
Navarro is also an honor student and dances competitively with the Na Hoku Mai Kanoelani Polynesian dance troupe based out of Stockton. She is thrilled to have the members of the troupe including her fellow dancers and musicians on-stage to perform live with her at the Miss Young Manteca show on Saturday. She will also be featured as “Lilo” in a special performance with the Mini Manteca Fun Campers ages 6-9 to the song “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” from Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” movie. She has volunteered over 250 hours this year to community organizations and causes including the Filipino American Heritage Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association, Ripon VFW, Flags Over Manteca and the Manteca Pumpkin Fair.
Navarro joined MYF at the age of 9 as a participant in the Mini Manteca Fun Camp, an introductory, non-competitive program for children under the age of 9. The camp features the MYF titleholders and new contestants as ‘camp counselors’ leading the children in a 3-hour play day including cooperative games, craft service project to make cards for soldiers serving overseas and learning the fun dance to perform live on stage. Her mom, Jane credits the Mini Camp as the spark that lit the fire within Navarro to come back to compete the following year in 2014.
“The amazing role models that are the teens in the camp were so wonderful to Sydnee and their encouragement was something that made a big impression on her and gave her the confidence to come out and compete,” remarked Navarro’s mother.
Navarro will serve as a big sister to 8 young boys and girls in this year’s camp which will see each of them receive a tiara or medal from none other than Miss California State Myklyn Balmut and California State Ambassador Charlie Priest, who are both MYF alumni themselves.
We spent some time with Sydnee recently to find out more about her year as Miss Young Manteca and her plans for the future.
• Why did you enter the Manteca Youth Focus Scholarship Competitions?
I wanted to begin earning scholarship money, as well as get more active the community.
• What was the most memorable part of your year as Miss Manteca?
The most memorable part of my year was riding in the 4th of July parade as Miss Young Manteca. It was so exciting to see my fellow Mantecans lining the streets and waving their American flags during the parade.
• What advice do you have for the contestants competing this year?
Don’t be nervous! Just be yourself and try your best. This will be one of the most exciting things you will do in your life – take it all in and have fun!
• What is in store for you in the future?
My short term goal is to make it to finals and place in my next Tahitian dance competition next month. After that I want to continue to volunteer with MYF and come back to compete for Miss Teen Manteca and one day, Miss Manteca. Also I will eventually go to college, obtain my law degree and own my own company.