"We knew it was going to be you!" family and friends yelled out with a chorus of cheers seconds after President Ann Smith announced that longtime Cerritos resident, Elaine Ramos, had won the 2012 Miss Cerritos Contest.
The 23-year-old, who was sponsored by Brian Tom and CA Educational Centers (CEC), was among a pool of six young women who took part in the Tuesday night scholarship-based competition.
An annual tradition in the city since 2002, the Miss Cerritos Contest prides itself on not being a beauty pageant but rather aims to help participants gain professional networking skills, public speaking and interview skills.
Ramos told Patch she first learned of the contest through her participation in Toastmasters -- an organization that helps inviduals develop public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback.
"I get so nervous when I'm speaking in public," she told Patch minutes after winning the title. "After I said 'Hi my name is Elaine Ramos' my mind went completely blank!"
Ironically, it appeared that her poise and eloquent delivery is what actually helped set her apart from the other candidates, barely relying on her note cards as she spoke passionately about her Cerritos upbringing before the standing room only crowd inside the Sierra Room of the .
Ramos, whose family moved to Cerritos when she was a young child, is a proud product of the , attending and before moving onto , where she spent her middle school and high school years.
After high school, she attended Cal State Fullerton on a full scholarship and graduated as a President's Scholar in 2010.
Ramos said being raised in a city that serves as a model of excellence has taught her that, "Who I am is more important than what I have."
"I would love the opportunity to give back to the city that instead of making me feel small in a big world, gave me the poise and self-confidence to grow in it," she said during her speech.
Ramos currently works for , an optometry office based in Cerritos, and plans to start optometry school at the Southern California College of Optometry later this year.
"I start optometry school in the fall, but I take with me all the lessons this city and this chamber have taught me -- to have a vision, to be a leader, and to always advocate for my community," she said.
Also recognized during tonight's event was 2012 Cerritos Princess Brittany Forsythe. The 21-year-old Downey resident currently works as a front desk receptionst for (her contest sponsor) and attends Cerritos College, where she volunteers as a peer counselor.
The other pool of contestants included Amanda Sandoval, Raquel Ramirez, Julie Ruvalcaba and Celina Chen.
Prior to tonight's final competition, each contestant took part in a scored panel interview. Three secret judges then graded the women on their networking skills during the contest mixer and their individual two-minute speeches. The ladies were scored based on their poise, positive attitude, social skills, and professional appearance.
"I have spent time with each of these young women, and they are all beautiful, extremely poised, intelligent and talented," Catherine Gaughen, Executive Director of the Cerritos Chamber, told the crowd.
Over the course of the next 12 months, Ramos and Forsythe will represent the Chamber and the city as ambassadors at numerous chamber and city gatherings throughout the year, including luncheons, mixers and special events.
As the community welcomed the two new Miss Cerritos representatives, they also bid a fond and grateful farewell to .
Like year's past, the event drew several chamber members, local business owners, and area residents along with title-holders representing nearby cities. City and county representatives were also present, including Cerritos council members Joseph Cho and Mark Pulido, who appeared on behalf of the missing council members who were attending the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in Washington D.C.
Though the Miss Cerritos Contest is the highlight of the evening, attendees also enjoyed delicious food samples from , Chronic Tacos, HIWA Fusion Restaurant, , , Sheraton Cerritos Grille 91, Mezza Mediterranean Grill, , GrillFellas, Rosewood Family Restaurant and .
The City of Cerritos, the , and Patina Restaurant Group were the premier sponsor of the 2012 Miss Cerritos Contest.
For more information on joining the Cerritos Regional Chamber of Commerce or for a list of future chamber events, visit their website or call (562) 467-0800.
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Editor's Note: A complete video recap of the 2012 Miss Cerritos Contest, including live interviews with Miss Cerritos Elaine Ramos, Princess Brittany Forsythe, and the 2011 Miss Cerritos Court will be posted on Patch in the coming days.