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Success at pageant surprises Idaho’s Miss Teen

Estrella Atkinson, center, poses for a picture with the staff and contestants of the Miss Teen Idaho pageant.
 (Photo courtesy of Estrella Atkinson / The Spokesman-Review)
Estrella Atkinson, center, poses for a picture with the staff and contestants of the Miss Teen Idaho pageant. (Photo courtesy of Estrella Atkinson / The Spokesman-Review)
Marian Wilson Correspondent

Lake City High School senior Estrella Atkinson got an unanticipated surprise when she attended the Miss Teen of Idaho Scholarship and Recognition Program finals on July 31 in Caldwell, Idaho.

“I was very shocked,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get into the top five. I didn’t think my chances were good. I was extremely shocked when they called my name as the title holder.”

Atkinson was chosen as Miss Teen of Idaho over 102 entrants in a competition that weighs academics, achievements, development of talents and skills, and personality projection. Students are invited to participate based on their activities and scholarship.

“They search for a girl that’s really well-rounded,” Atkinson said.

The judges look at each girl’s credentials and Atkinson presented a good case. She holds a 4.15 grade-point average and is a National Honor Society member and Idaho Top Scholar. She volunteers at Special Olympics, Youth Volunteers in Action, and the Ignite mentoring program. She belongs to three of Lake City High School’s honor choirs. As the varsity cheerleading captain, she spreads school spirit and an ego-boost to football players by delivering gifts of Gatorade or candy on game days.

Miss Teen contestants were given a “common sense” test, which asked random questions such as the name of the first woman on the moon and the meaning of “cosmopolitan.”

“I think they were trying to judge your general awareness,” Atkinson said.

For personality projection, the participants were asked to walk across the floor in formal dress to show how they present themselves. Walking from spot A to spot B seemed too plain to Atkinson so she delivered a curtsey and spun around at the first stop.

“They said you could spice it up if you wanted, and I decided I had to,” she said.

When the title was granted, Atkinson admits that she shed a few tears, although she never understood before why girls cry at pageants. She thought it would be a time to laugh and celebrate, but her emotions took over when her name was called.

The road to the pageant was not an easy one for Atkinson. In early July, it didn’t look like she would be going to the competition at all. She had attended the event her freshman year with her mother, Loneita, and had fond memories of the trip plus the success of placing in the top 10 that year. On July 9 of this summer, her mother died of a rare and sudden liver ailment. Her father, Leon, wasn’t keen on the pageant, and Atkinson needed $100 for the entry fee. She wandered around the streets of Coeur d’Alene searching for a business that might sponsor her. She walked into the first one that looked promising: Alliance Title and Escrow Corp. She asked them to sponsor her, and they agreed. Two weeks later Atkinson brought home the title.

“I knew my mom really wanted me to,” she said. “It was sort of for her.”

With a two-year reign as Miss Teen of Idaho, Atkinson will receive a $1,000 cash scholarship, a $500 savings bond and $250 to award to the department of her choice at Lake City High School. The title holder is allowed to choose what causes they wish to become involved with, based on individual interests.

Atkinson plans to promote a teen suicide prevention program and a program to promote healthy teen body image. Her future goals include studying nutrition, fashion design and merchandising, singing and dancing. She is currently ranked 13th in her class and has her eyes set on reaching the top 10 by graduation.

Atkinson’s cheerleading coach and Lake City High School Spanish teacher, Kelli Gabourie, was not at all surprised by her cheer captain’s success at the pageant.

“She has a dazzling smile,” Gabourie said. “When she smiles, she lights up a room. She’s so full of life.”

Gabourie watched Atkinson handle the loss of her mother with strength and determination.

“The team didn’t even know it was happening,” she said. “She never lost her smile.”

Gabourie sees Atkinson as a positive role model for other girls because of her ambition, caring and focus on inner beauty. After winning the pageant, Atkinson showed her customary concern for others in a phone call to Gabourie.

“She said, ‘I won and I feel really bad because I’m going to be late for practice,’ ” Gabourie said. “She’s very humble. She’s a leader that I want the girls to follow. She’s just a bright star.”

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