San Benito High School senior Jazmine Parra will be representing
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Jazmine Parra and a friend were on their way to San Benito High School cheer practice one day last spring when her mother called and gave her the news – representatives for the Miss California Teen USA pageant wanted to meet her in Los Angeles to possibly get into the 2012 competition.

Parra, a 17-year-old senior, was somewhat stunned by the revelation considering she had experienced just one other pageant, a couple months earlier in Irvine. She had to head to L.A. for the meeting because Hollister doesn’t have an officially sanctioned event as a qualifier for the Miss California Teen USA pageant.

“We went to L.A. and they interviewed me, and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a contestant.’” said Parra, recalling some of the questions they had asked, such as why she wants to become Miss California Teen USA and how she has helped her community.

Parra will compete against about 130 other teens in the annual competition – which couples with the Miss California pageant, both owned by Donald Trump’s Miss USA entity. The event this weekend is at a theater in Indian Wells in Southern California. There are interviews Friday, followed by the competition Saturday and possibly finals Sunday.

Parra said she has been preparing quite a bit in the past several weeks. She has asked many people for help, such as how she should interview or do her hair and makeup.

While talking about her expectations Monday for the pageant, Parra actually underscored that the experience has expanded her perspective on giving back to others.

“This experience has been so fun and has really opened my eyes to a new world,” she said. “Before going into the pageant, I often kind of got things – like people gave me things, and I never really gave anything back, except I said ‘thank you.’

“Being in the pageant, one thing they told me is try doing community service. Doing community service and knowing you’re helping people that need help is probably the best feeling you can get.”

Parra mentioned two ideas for community service projects she plans to take on – she wants to make flower pots for Valentine’s Day to send them out, and she also wants to hold a blanket drive, “where people bring blankets and we just give them out to people that really need it.”

Her mother, Liz Parra, also pointed to her daughter’s participation in the national “Love is Louder” campaign, which has a goal of curtailing verbal and other abuses toward people.

Liz Parra had the initial contact with a Miss California Teen USA representative that led to her daughter’s participation.

“She’s not very experienced. She’s doing it more to represent Hollister, have fun,” her mother said, before adding, “She’ll do fine regardless if she places or not.”

While Jazmine Parra has enjoyed this experience and was looking forward to seeing the other pageant contestants again – after they met at orientation in November – it might not be her last walk on the big stage.

“If I don’t get Miss Teen California this year, I want to go for Miss California later in the future,” she said.

And beyond the pageant circuit, Parra the student is looking forward to furthering her education.

“I want to go to Carrington (College) in San Jose to become a hygienist, or become an astronomer,” she said. “I love science.”

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