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February 20, 2007 > Poise, panache and pizzazz

Poise, panache and pizzazz

It is said that first impressions are the most lasting, but often they can be misleading as well. Usually a "first" meeting is filled with hesitancy and awkwardness as people try to understand and "size up" participants. When meeting Leticia Pag‡n, there is little time for the initial jitters; her smile, charm and intelligence overwhelm any conversational obstacles.

Selected to represent Union City in this year's Miss Teenage California Scholarship Pageant, there is a sense of composure and assurance of action that not only presages well for her chances, but belies the notion that those involved in such pageants are equipped with a well proportioned body and little else. Certainly beautiful, Leticia has the talent and intelligence to compete in any forum she chooses. As a contestant selected from thousands of applicants, those charged with finding the right candidates appear to know this too. Only applicants who have demonstrated strong academic performance and involvement in their community are chosen.

Although new to pageant competition, Leticia is no stranger to being a role model and representative in faraway places. Three years ago, at age 13, she served as San Francisco's first Youth Ambassador to Vietnam. These travels opened her eyes to reality in other parts of the world, especially where education is recognized as the primary vehicle to maintain an acceptable standard of living and, for many, to escape grinding poverty. She notes that this has helped her to understand the value of personal educational opportunities. Her role was to study another educational system and interact with students, giving insight into American life as a teenager. The 28-day trip, gave Leticia the opportunity to try new things and test herself. She notes, "I was part of a delegation, but I was responsible for myself. It was a big step."

As a Logan High School senior, she is now looking forward to collegiate experiences, but her years at Logan have been filled with exemplary activities. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and participated in the Edinburgh International Music Festival in Scotland. Leticia is presently involved in the Medical Explorer Program sponsored by Washington Hospital. This program is designed specifically for teens wishing to purse a career in medicine. Leticia notes that when she took a psychology class at Berkeley through an early academic outreach program, her inclination to pursue a career in neurology "clicked." She has also been actively involved, for the last three years, in St. Ann's Emmaus Christian Youth Ministry.

"I am not a beauty queen, just a regular girl," says Leticia. She insists that "you don't have to be extraordinary to do extraordinary things." Her travels to Vietnam as a "scared but excited thirteen year-old" and with the James Logan High School Band to New York and Scotland have broadened her perspectives. "Sometimes high school students have a hard time looking beyond what is in their own local area, but there is so much beyond that. You can extend your reach and strive for the best." Always striving to follow her own advice, Leticia, a dancer for many years, has joined the Ballet Folklorico this year to "try something new."

After high school, Ms. Pag‡n plans to attend a four year university majoring in health science. She would like to obtain a doctorate in Neuroscience. Her dream is to become a neurologist specializing in children. As of this date, she has been accepted to both San Francisco State and Dominican Universities. Dominican University has also selected her as a Presidential Scholar which is one of the highest honors offered to a select few incoming freshmen. She has also applied to several other colleges and is waiting for their decision letters. "I am really excited and know that no matter where I go, they all have fine programs to prepare me for my chosen career." The Miss Teen California pageant not only offers a new experience for Leticia, but she note, "It is a wonderful scholarship opportunity."

Leticia says she is proud to represent Union City. "I'm very excited and a little nervous. It's a beautiful community. It is after all an 'All American City', has a wonderful school district and is very culturally diverse. Both of my parents were born and raised in Hawaii. However, my great grandmother Justina Nieves came from Hawaii with her family to the Decoto District of Union City in the 1930's. My family and I now live in the Alvarado district of Union City. My family has been a part of this community for the last seventy years and I will do my best to represent my family and community at this year's pageant."

Leticia is a senior at James Logan High School and is the daughter of Clifford and Johnette Pag‡n The state competition will be held April 20-22, 2007 in Los Angeles.

Anyone interested in sponsoring Leticia Pag‡n can contact her parents directly at (510) 429-1914 or by email at jt5129@aol.com. When asked why she decided to participate in this year's pageant, Leticia stated "I have never participated in a pageant before. What impressed me about the Miss Teenage California Scholarship Pageant is that it doesn't emphasis beauty as much as it does both academic and community involvement. I also have big dreams and plans for my future. I know medical school will be expensive and I was enticed by the pageant because it offers educational scholarships to the top finalist. This will help me financially support my dreams of becoming a neurologist someday."

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