Longtime Cerritos resident, Stephanie Peterson, was crowned Miss Cerritos 2011 on Tuesday night before a large crowd at the Sierra Room of the .
The new title-holder was among 11 contestants in the scholarship-based competition, which has been a yearly tradition since 2002.
The March 22 contest was not a beauty pageant but rather "a professional development opportunity presented by the Cerritos Regional Chamber of Commerce," says Catherine Gaughen, Executive Director of the Cerritos Chamber.
Peterson, who was sponsored in the contest by HIWA Fusion Restaurant, went to and graduated from , where she says she first learned to appreciate the beauty of cutural diversity in the city. For the past 11 years she has been volunteering for the 's special education preschool program.
"It was here where I found my love for working in education and my passion for working with students with special needs," she said during her competition speech.
Her experience as a volunteer led her to pursue an education and career in speech and language pathology. Peterson currently works as a member of the Grant Support Staff for the district's School and Community Partnerships Department.
Attendees also witnessed participants Lisa Lifton and Michelle Yoo being crowned as princesses to complete the Miss Cerritos 2011 Royal Court. Lifton has worked at the Cerritos and currently works at the , while Yoo has been interning for the Chamber over the past year.
The popular event drew a large crowd comprised of chamber members, local business owners, area residents and employees along with title-holders representing nearby cities. City and county representatives were also present, including newly-selected , Mayor Pro Tem Jim Edwards and re-elected councilmember Bruce Barrows.
With a very talented and capable group of women to choose from, the Chamber's panel of judges had no easy task. The ladies were scored based on their poise, positive attitude, social skills, and professional appearance. Each contestant also took part in a scored panel interview prior to the final competition. But perhaps the most stressful aspect of the contest was the required on-stage speech that each participant delivered at Tuesday night's contest.
'I don't know if it's (save) the best for last or the most nervous for last," a jittery Alexis Contreras, 18, said at the start of her speech. "I was about to run out to my car right now, and I'm the youngest" she added jokingly, triggering a series of supportive laughs in the audience.
But each contestant proved to conquer their nervousness by delivering unique and personable speeches that were well received by all with cheers and applause.
"We have a wonderful group of young ladies this year, and it is absolutely amazing to see these yong folks so poised and confident and well-spoken," Mayor Chen told Patch. "And I think any one of them will do us very proud to be Miss Cerritos and represent the city as well as the Chamber."
The 11 contestants included Stephanie Peterson, Lisa Lifton, Francesca Delgado, Alexis Contreras, Tahnya Claypool, Erica Palafox, Jasmin Ramirez, Michelle Yoo, Janinda Gunawardene, Jennifer Noble, and Irena Wang.
Together, Peterson, Lifton and Yoo will represent the Chamber as ambassadors at numerous chamber and city gatherings throughout the year, including luncheons, mixers and special events, says Gaughen.
The trio will also get the opportunity to network with the region's business leaders while developing their own contacts and relationships to further their careers goals.
The lively gathering also served as one of the Chamber's most popular annual mixers. For $10 a ticket, attendees not only networked, they also had the opportunity to dine on delicious foods, drinks and treats provided by , , , Rosewood Family Restaurant, , Coffee Studio, , , Grillfellas, , , and Tava Grill & Lounge.
Exotic Tan was the premier sponsor of the 2011 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 and photo recap of the Miss Cerritos Contest, including live interviews with Miss Cerritos Stephanie Peterson, Princess Lisa Lifton, Cerritos Mayor Carol K. Chen, and others in attendance, will be posted on Patch in the coming days.