Five young women will showcase their talents, poise and beauty Saturday at the annual Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant in Pasco.
The pageant begins at 6 p.m. in the Pasco High School auditorium.
It's a passion for pageant director Elouise Sparks, who developed the event 10 years ago as a way to help build the confidence of young women in the black community.
"We wanted to make them proud of who they are, that no matter how dark or light your skin the way people perceive you is how you carry yourself," Sparks said. "If you are respectful, have integrity and a good moral character, that's how people will see you."
Each of the high school students will be interviewed by judges on the morning of the pageant. That evening, they compete in evening wear, talent and impromptu speaking.
In addition to naming the 2012 Miss Juneteenth, judges also will give awards for talent, congeniality and academics, which goes to the contestant with the highest grade-point average in three consecutive quarters.
Miss Juneteenth is guaranteed at least $1,000 in scholarship money, with runners up also receiving cash awards. The amount depends program advertising, ticket sales and donations.
"Over the past nine years, we've given away over $41,000 in scholarship money," Sparks said.
Judges will be looking for someone to represent the Tri-Cities and the black community.
"During her year she will, first of all, educate our community and the people she meets about Juneteenth and why it's so important for us to celebrate and remember," Sparks said.
Juneteenth celebrations began in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 -- two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Back then, news did not travel that fast and a lot of the slaves could not read," Sparks said. "Remember, there were no phones, no television, no internet. News came strictly by word of mouth.
"Juneteenth became a big celebration for African American people, but it's not just for us. It's for anyone who has, within their culture, been enslaved by others," Sparks said.
Miss Juneteenth will carry that message to other pageants and to the schools.
"She'll visit classrooms and encourage youths to stay in school and get a good education. Our young ladies really enjoy their time with the young kids," she said.
This year's contestants are:
-- Patricia Anyango, daughter of Grace Nyabilo of Kennewick. She was a member of the Kamiakin High School tennis team and a volunteer at Kadlec Regional Medical Center. She plans to attend Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., or the University of Washington and major in dentistry.
-- Naomi Gordon, daughter of Anthony and Lisa Gordon of Kennewick. She graduated from Kamiakin High School and was active with Team Read, Careers in Education and was a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. She plans to attend Eastern Washington University and major in early childhood education.
-- Mariah Kensey, daughter of Tiffany Wick and Dwayne Kensey of Kennewick. She plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
-- Kylie Simons, daughter of Laura Simons and Marc Staten, and living with Tim and Elaine Hinkle of Richland. She enjoys helping teach English as a second language classes and is interested in taking pre-med courses with a minor in music.
-- Kaelyn Walters, daughter of Shari and Michael Wilson of West Richland and Brad Walters of Tacoma. She attends Richland High School where she is on the cheerleading squad and is active in her youth group at Faith Assembly Church in Pasco.
Pageant tickets for adult tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door; high school and college students ($10), elementary/middle school students and senior citizens ages 60 and older ($5). Children ages 5 and younger get in free.
Tickets are available at Fantastic Sam's, 1220 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick and Salon Remedi, 745 The Parkway, Richland.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com