May 30, 2005 — Excitement was in the air Sunday night as St. Thomian Esonica Veira took top honors in the 2005 Miss Virgin Islands Hal Jackson Talented Teen Scholarship contest. Held at the St. Croix Educational Complex auditorium, the competition, named in honor of organizer Hal Jackson, is currently in its 35th year. According to contest director Claire Roker, the show was a big success.
Veira, whose dream is to become a world-class entertainer, is a 10th-grade-student at Charlotte Amalie High School. She wowed the crowd with her energetic dancing style, as she moon-walked and slid across the stage, recalling a Thriller-era Michael Jackson. Veira, who took home a $1,500 scholarship for first place, was also named Miss Photogenic.
Other winners in the scholarship competition included first-runner-up Shakyma Mercado and second-runner-up Rafalia Corneiro.
Mercado impressed the crowd by combining sign language and ballet as her talent. She brought the crowd to its feet during the competition's Dreams to Reality segment, which required the contestants to appear in a creative costume and recite a 20-second speech. Mercado appeared onstage as a strawberry sundae in a silver glass and then magically twirled into a pink-and-white evening gown with a cherry for a headpiece.
"I am grateful to all of my family and friends that came out and supported me to the end. I am so happy and excited," Mercado said. She also was named Miss Popularity, sharing that honor with fellow contestant Curice Paulus of St. Thomas.
Corneiro impressed the crowd as she graced the stage in a yellow beaded evening gown that was layered in several rows of ruffles. Corneiro said that she was happy to have had the experience of participating in the pageant.
Other participants in the competition included Francillia Benjamin, who was chosen as Miss Congeniality; Jamie Gaston and St. Thomas's Chunikwa George.
For the young ladies who did not win Miss Talented Teen, there's still hope because the title of Miss V.I. Outstanding Teen is still up for grabs. The young woman that is chosen to represent the Virgin Islands will travel to Orlando, Fla., in August to compete in Miss Americas Outstanding Teen contest.
Roker says contestants from the United States and the Virgin Islands will compete for over $150,000 in college scholarship assistance, with the winner receiving $30,000. The lucky young woman will be contacted as soon as the decision is made.
"My committee and I will meet tomorrow to choose the First Annual Miss Virgin Islands Outstanding Teen," Roker said.
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