Dayton ‘Junior Miss’ dances on |

Dayton ‘Junior Miss’ dances on

Karl Horeis

When the contestants in the Junior Miss Nevada competition danced onto the stage Sunday afternoon in Reno, some were struggling to stay on the beat.

Not Mayra Alcantara.

The Dayton High School senior made the moves easily, a broad smile across her face. She’s been dancing for years.

“I’ve always loved dancing,” she said. “I was the co-captain of the Douglas High dance team.”

Alcantara entered the competition in a search for scholarships. The competition can be very helpful – Junior Miss America 2003 Andrea Finch won $65,600 toward her education. Alcantara said she hopes to raise enough money to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, to study medicine.

Scholarships set the Junior Miss program apart from pageants like Miss Teen USA and Miss America.

“Junior Miss is a scholarship program – not a pageant,” said event co-chairwoman Tanya Kluck.

The money girls win must go toward their education. “It cannot be used on a car, Kluck said.

Junior Miss has different judging criteria than pageants in which girls win cash and a crown. While Miss Teen USA judging is based on only three things – the swimsuit and evening gown competitions and an interview – Junior Miss contestants are judged on scholastics, talent, an interview, fitness and poise.

“They are judged on things that are going to make them a better person someday,” Kluck said.

Alcantara hopes someday to help children by becoming a pediatrician.

“It all started when my little cousin got cancer in his eyes when he was 2 and couldn’t see,” she said. She cared for the boy, now 7, while his mother worked.

Her family is very close, she explained. During the competition her father, mother, two sisters and brother all watched.

As she waited for the judges to tally their results, she was a little nervous, but not stressed out.

“If I don’t win, I’ll move on,” she said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

You can’t really lose in the Junior Miss competition anyway, Kluck said.

“Even if they win nothing, they are still eligible to apply for scholarships through the organization.”

When the winners were announced, all the awards went to Reno girls. Junior Miss Nevada 2004 will be Brooke Siem, also a dancer. Alcantara clapped for her as Sien collected six wooden plaques, each representing a scholarship.

n For more information on the American Junior Miss program, go to