The Miss Hispanic Heritage Pageant, which took place from 6 – 8 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Jones Auditorium, was the first event to launch the month.
“Hispanic Heritage means a lot of amazing traditions, deep faith, and a lot of love,” said Kaylyn Villarreal, senior, kinesiology major, and one of the six contestants.
Leslie Rodriguez, senior, communications science and disorder major, another contestant at the pageant, chose to go with a red and white dress to honor her country.
“I was going to pick green as well because those are Mexican colors and for me it is very important to represent my culture,” Rodriguez said.
The judge panel consisted of Sowmya Damidi, the current Miss TAMUK, Justin Martinez, Residence Life Coordinator and Erin McClure, Director of Student Activites.
Damidi is no stranger to the pageant world. As a judge, she can easily relate to the nerves and excitement the girls were feeling.
“As a team we were looking for someone who really appreciates the spirit of being Hispanic, who really wants to get out there and take on the culture and is proud of it,” Damidi said.
Martinez was looking for deep answers to the questions presented before the contestants.
“I was looking for how they are going to help the community, how they are going to help the campus and teaching others about what our culture is as a Hispanic member myself,” Martinez said.
“I got really nervous but whenever you are answering pageant questions and stuff like this you need to speak with pride because you are representing Miss Hispanic Heritage and TAMUK,” Villarreal said.
After being crowned, Jennifer Benavidez, senior biomedical major, was gushing with joy.
“I feel so happy. I really wasn’t expecting this but I’m very glad because this is a title I will hold dear to my heart. It is an amazing opportunity and I’m very thankful,” Benavidez said.
She plans to use her scholarship towards her biomedical science degree.
“I plan on becoming a neonatologist, which is a subspecialty after pediatrics,” Benavidez said.