Visalian takes stage for Miss California Teen pageant

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Representing the San Joaquin Valley, Kaitlyn Ward will contend for the Miss California Teen crown

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

VISALIA – The contestants for the 2017 Miss California Teen pageant have been selected. Among them is Visalia’s Kaitlyn Ward, named Miss San Joaquin Valley Teen. She and the rest of the contestants will contend for the crown of Miss California Teen and advance to the Miss Teen USA pageant.

“It’s always good to be nervous, but I am more excited than anything,” said Ward.

Ward is taking part in this particular pageant because the Miss USA Teen system is affiliated with a group called Best Buddies, an autistic awareness group that gets people involved with helping out with children who have autism.

Ward’s mother, Kimberly Ward, is an autistic special education teacher at Lindsay High School.

“I really am able to connect with those children,” said Ward.

This will be the first pageant for the 16-year-old El Diamante High School junior. After meeting all the other contestants at orientation earlier in October, Ward found out that she was the only one of a small group of teens making their first pageant appearance.

“That makes me feel a little bit better about making the appearance,” said Ward.

She has been dancing since the age of 4. She was encouraged by her mother to take it up since she had been constantly dancing around the house. Ward stuck with dancing, and it wasn’t long before she was dancing competitively, gaining experience Ward believes will help her in the pageant.

“This will help me with my stage presence and being able to be comfortable on stage,” said Ward. She also noted that dancing will help her in being able to control the attention of the audience.

Dance has given Ward her platform as being an advocate for arts in public schools.

“I really want to help educate other students on how they can use the arts as an outlet and educate the school boards to not get rid of the arts,” said Ward.

Ward can recall on numerous occasions where she has felt stressed or overwhelmed. Dancing either in the studio at school, or in her room has helped to clear her mind and refocus.

Ward believes that eliminating the arts in public schools would have an adverse effect in students’ performance inside the classroom, not only in regards to their grade point average, but to their mental state as well.

Ward is also passionate about anti-bullying efforts within schools and is involved with Habitat for Humanity. Her future plans are to double major in dance and quantitative biology at the University of Southern California.

Ward and the other contestants will take the stage at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach from Dec. 1 through Dec. 3. Her goal is to achieve a top-20 finish and earn one of the scholarships that are offered for those placements.

“It would be crazy if I won,” she said.

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