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My Pageant Speech- Education, Not Deportation

Every year, thousands of immigrants graduate high school with the hopes of furthering their education. Every year, thousands of immigrants are unable to go to college because they are undocumented. Each of those immigrants has a dream.

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My Pageant Experience- I’m Going to Disneyland

I have been MIA for way too long; I’m sorry about that. I’ve started a few drafts but I haven’t gotten around to finishing them. I’ll do that soon but my goal for right now is to update all of my lovely readers on all that has been going on. Let’s start with the NAM pageant:

I was super excited as pageant weekend neared. Every bone in my body was geared towards practicing how to walk gracefully and making sure that I wouldn’t forget my speech (I didn’t by the way!). The closer it got to the start of the pageant, the more excited I became. I was so ready to do a great job! Friday June 17th was the first official day of the pageant. It was then that I attended the workshop for a last-minute information and practice session. It turned out to be a lot of fun! We practiced interviewing one another and our personal introductions. I’m a pretty shy person when I first meet someone so my goal was to take myself out of my comfort zone. When giving my personal introduction I tried to be confident, outgoing, and energetic. Some of the girls complimented me and said that I did a great job. That really made my day because it made me feel like I could have gone really far in the pageant. Later during the workshop, we played a game where we each had to get into groups and design a dress out of toilet paper. I loved talking to the girls in my group! We put a big bow on the side of the dress and a smaller bow around the neck. The dress was like a halter top and it was long and flowy. We made a headband and a bracelet out of the toilet paper as well because we didn’t want our tp dress to be like the other girls’ (But some of them added accessories after seeing ours). All of the dresses were different and unique to each girl’s personality. One was even like the Statue of Liberty, flames and all! After all of the dresses were finished, we had to model in them and walk the ‘runway’. In short, my first day at the pageant was a blast!

There will be a lot of photos, my mom snapped away every 5 seconds!

After experiencing day 1, I couldn’t wait for day 2. I could hardly sleep because I kept imagining the whole day! The part that I looked forward to the most was the spokesmodel competition. I was giving 1 1/2 minute speech about the DREAM Act. Surprising enough, I wasn’t nervous at all! I was actually really excited to be speaking about something that I felt so passionately about. What set my speech apart from the others was that mine wasn’t about my dreams (as that was the theme of this year’s pageant), but rather the dreams of others. I had a message that I wanted to get out and I didn’t care who was watching. Maybe it was the conviction in my voice that moved the judges, but my speech was good enough to make it to the top 5. After giving it, my family ran to me and hugged me saying what a great job I had done. I had managed to not mess up a single time. It was exactly as I had practiced it! I turned my head and noticed that a woman had been waiting to talk to me. She told me that my speech was fantastic and that she loved it. She said that mine was the best one! You all have no idea how much that meant to me! I was glowing the rest of the day because I knew that I had gotten my message out to at least one person. This woman was very nice and she always smiled at me and gave me bits and pieces of advice, which really came in handy. My grandmother told me that my speech was just in time because the day before I gave it President Obama had just issued an executive order for DREAMers. I told my sister that if the DREAM Act had been passed instead of that executive order, I would have had to rewrite my whole speech in a day!

The only part that I was pretty anxious about was the interview portion. I admit, I hadn’t really practiced it because I wanted all of my answers to be genuine, not rehearsed. You get more from a person when they don’t know that it’s coming. While I was waiting for my turn to be interviewed, I was trying to stay calm and relaxed. There were eight judges and I had to go from table to table and be interviewed by each one for just under one minute. Those eight minutes went by really fast! It was easy to be myself with them and I wasn’t nervous at all once I stepped foot into the room. They were all very nice and they smiled and laughed at me (I guess I’m funnier than I thought lol). I left the room feeling very confident, but I felt even better when I saw that Megan, last year’s queen, was waiting for me with a smile and a bag of goodies that she made for each contestant. Megan was very nice to talk to and she always helped me to feel better before each event. She changed her dress at least five times a day, and each dress was more beautiful than the one before it.

Megan Knauer being crowned.

After the interview competition, I had to prepare to give my personal introduction. I had 30 seconds to introduce myself to the judges and to the audience. That doesn’t sound too bad right? You do it everyday, but many of the girls were so nervous that they forgot what they were going to say- some even repeated their rehearsed lines. I tried to tell a few of them that it’s nothing more than introducing the amazing person that they are- that if they know themselves they could do it.

My personal introduction, “My name is Sierra Wright and I’m from the home of Super Bowl XLVI, Indianapolis, Indiana! I hope to attend the University of Texas at Austin and one day become and immigration lawyer so that I can speak for those who have no voice and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. I am Sierra Wright. Thank you!

I felt amazing after day 2 and again, I absolutely couldn’t wait for the next day! I couldn’t believe that there was only one competition left- the formal wear competition. Now, I have the grace of a pregnant woman in 8 inch stilettos (-_- yeah…that’s not good) so I worked really hard to make sure that I would be ready for the formal wear competition. I was really worried after that because I hadn’t done as well as I hoped I would and it was really bothering me but DA DA DA DUMMMM, that really nice woman from day 2 came to save the day. She showed me her pearly whites and told me that I did great and that I amaze her with every event. She said that she loved watching me and that I was doing an excellent job. After speaking with her, I was no longer worried! I was just being hard on myself for no reason at all. My grandfather was my escort and we looked pretty darn good!

All that was left after the formal wear competition was the pageant finale- where each contestant came together to dance to Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO. While we were preparing to dance, one of the contestants came and whispered to me,”Between you and me, I think you’re going to win. Everytime I see you I just think, ‘Wow, she’s going to win!”” I could feel my face just light up! I enjoyed doing the dance a lot! I’m not a very good dancer (and I was in the front row three times) nor do I have the best memory in the world so within the 4.5 hours that I had left to forget the dance between the time we rehearsed it and the time we performed, I was doing whatever I could to make sure I didn’t forget on stage. I was walking down the streets of downtown doing the dance moves. I danced on the escalators, I danced in the mall, I danced in the lobby, I was dancing all over! But all of that dancing really came in handy when it was time to get on stage. I didn’t forget a thing (Whoo *wipes off sweat*)! After the performance, I had to rush and change from my pageant production number outfit to my spokesmodel outfit to give my speech one last time, and then again to my dress and I had 30 minutes to change three times.

After walking across the stage one last time, it was time for the awards ceremony. Each contestant automatically received a trophy for being a state finalist, but there were several other individual trophies awarded as well. I was awarded a trophy for being 4th runner-up in the spokesmodel competition, qualifying me for nationals, and a trophy for outstanding program participation. My feet were killing me and as much as I wanted to be there, I just wanted to sit down, relax, and kick off my heels. Although I practiced walking gracefully in my heels, I hadn’t practiced standing in them in pretty feet (with the heel of one foot touching the middle of the other foot to form a V) for 30 minutes. I suddenly felt as if I had to vomit. I didn’t want to puke all over the judges (gross, I know) but I couldn’t run off of the stage either. I tried as hard as I could to hold it in but I couldn’t help but gag. Oh no……….that’s when I began to worry. I didn’t know why I had suddenly felt so sick. It wasn’t nervous jitters because I was actually really excited, but for some reason it was becoming unbearable. The feeling of having to vomit surpassed, only to be followed by extreme lightheadedness. I felt like I could barely stand and like I was going to pass out. I felt it coming…….but I tried as hard as I could to hide what was going on. I got super hot to the point where I was sweating, and then super cold to the point that I was shivering. To my astonishment, my name and number were called because I had won something, although I wasn’t sure what it was (I was to focused on trying not to faint). I received my rose and politely walked off of the stage. I really wasn’t sure if I was supposed to exit the stage or not, but I had to get out of there. One of last year’s queens rushed to me asking me what was wrong and I told her that I thought I was about to pass out. One of the choreographers then ran to me and had me sit down while the queen brought me 3 cups of cold water. They had me put my head in my lap until the feeling passed. Everyone backstage was really worried about me, and in some weird way, I was relieved to see that they actually cared so much about my well-being. As they were discussing what should be done, I heard them say that I was in the top 15 and that I could have actually taken home the title! They didn’t want me to go back on stage because I was still feeling a bit down but I had been waiting for that moment for so long! I wasn’t about to let anything stop me. I went back on stage and I smiled, breathing deeply so I wouldn’t collapse and trying to hide that I felt ill. I anxiously awaited for the results of this year’s pageant queen. I waited to hear the emcee say the number 87, Sierra Wright, as she called the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st runner-ups. I thought, “If my name hasn’t been called, it’s probably because I’ve gotten something bigger.” Finally, it was time for the queen to be revealed. Please say number 87!

And the winner is…..contestant number eighty……..(YES! IS IT ME?!?!?!?!)!

And…..she stopped at 80. So I didn’t win. I wasn’t queen nor was I in the queen’s court, but I got something so much better than a trophy and a title. Actually, I got a few things:

  1. I was no longer nervous to speak in front of large crowds.
  2. I learned to take myself out of my comfort zone.
  3. I could finally say that I had made it so far.
  4. I made a lot of new friends.
  5. I spread the word about the DREAM Act.
  6. I can now walk with grace (Huge plus!).
  7. I’m more ready than ever for next year!

Randy Pausch said it best, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” That is probably the truest advice that I have ever heard. My pageant experience has made me better than ever! Thank you NAM!

Education, Not Deportation

The DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was reintroduced on May 11, 2011.  It is a bill giving undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become legal citizens. The bill, however, is not open to all undocumented immigrants. There are set requirements such as the following:

  • Must be 12-30 years old at the time of enactment
  • Must have arrived in the U.S before the age of 16
  • Must have lived in the U.S for at least 5 years
  • Must graduate from a U.S high school, or get a GED
  • Must plan on going to college or serving in the U.S military for at least 2 years
  • Must not have any criminal convictions

As you can see, the DREAM Act is meant for those that are already here. It’s also more focused on children or teens. Those same children, who were brought here at very young ages, may not even know that they are undocumented until they are much older. Now they have to live in fear of being deported from the only place that they know and call home. Many don’t even know their home countries. These same kids have the same hopes, dreams, and aspirations as all other Americans: to succeed and be the best that they possibly can. They should not have to live in fear of being kicked out of the only place that they call home. They are indeed Americans, although not by birth. They are proud to be called Americans. They celebrate our independence day, they attend our schools and churches, and they contribute to our communities, and most importantly, they’ve become a part of us.

DREAMers are full of immense talent, just like everyone else. The only difference is their civil status. Denying DREAMers is like saying that they can’t cure the sick, although they’re perfectly capable of it. That they can’t start  a successful business. All because they were brought here over something that they had no control over. These talented DREAMers can and will help our economy prosper, if given the opportunity:

  • DREAMers like Walter Lara, an honor student who found out he was “illegal” when he was applying for college.
  • DREAMers like Stephanie, who started at UCLA when she was 16 and works two or three minimum wage jobs to pay for her schooling.
  • DREAMers like Eric Balderas, a Harvard biology major who has been in America since he was 4 and was detained when flying back to school after visiting his mother.

I’ve recently attended Senator Lugar’s symposium, and while there I was able to ask him a few questions.One of the questions was if he anticipated the DREAM Act being passed any time soon. He told me that it would probably not be passed this year, but he also informed me that 55 of the necessary 60 votes were in favor of the DREAM Act. That’s about 92% of the needed votes.

Come on DREAMers and let’s make this dream a reality! What do we want and when do we want it?