The tensions were high as almost 20 Okkodo High School Bulldogs competed for the title of Mister and Miss Okkodo. The event was held in honor of Mes CHamoru, and the winners became role models in promoting a positive learning environment for their school.
D’Shanae Cruz, a junior, won the title of Miss Okkodo. Cruz decided to become a contestant because it was something she had wanted to try for a long time.
“I decided to join the pageant because, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to be in one, but it’s really hard to make the time especially because I’m an all-around athlete,” she said.
The junior prepared for the pageant by watching YouTube videos of pageants when she had time, as well as attending the rehearsals during her lunch.
When she was crowned Miss Okkodo, Cruz said she experienced a lot of emotions and felt “good” knowing she won with her boyfriend, Ethan Sanchez.
“I felt really blessed, happy, and surprised because I’ve never actually done anything like this, and it felt so good knowing I won with my other half,” Cruz said.
Cruz said she still feels “butterflies” when talking about the event. She said it’s “crazy” because anyone could’ve won, but she and Sanchez happened to win the crown.
Regarding the Mes CHamoru aspect of the competition, Cruz felt she exemplified the pageant's theme.
“As I was competing, I knew that this event was held to showcase the culture and arts of the Marianas. The theme was ‘Manhihita Marianas.’ Therefore, never once I thought I was better. Instead, I kept a positive mindset, and I chose to help others if they needed it because again we are one Bulldog family.”
When asked for words of wisdom to share, Cruz said people should try new things because they may not know what they can do. “I never knew I was capable of doing something like this, and it turned out to be the best decision I’ve made so far,” she said.
Cruz said people sometimes have to step out of their comfort zones and use the experience to learn about themselves no matter the outcome.
Seeking a memorable experience
OHS senior Ethan Sanchez won the Mister Okkodo title in the pageant. Sanchez joined the competition because he wanted a memorable experience from his senior year.
The senior prepared for the event by studying videos of pageant walks and poses and credits his pageant coaches as playing a big part during his journey to the crown.
“I learned that you never know what you may succeed in if you don't try new things,” Sanchez said.
When crowned Mister Okkodo, Sanchez felt a rush of excitement.
“I could feel all the goosebumps as they announced my name,” Sanchez said. “I was very happy and thankful. It made me even happier finding out that my girlfriend and I both won.”
Sanchez displayed the cultural side of the competition by embracing the theme.
“The theme for our Mes CHamoru [pageant] is "Manhihita Marianas" (We are Marianas). How I showcased that was by talking to all the competitors and encouraging them because at the end of the day, we are one.”
Sanchez shared a message that was similar to Cruz’s. “Don't be afraid to try something new because it just might be a skill that you never knew you had,” he said.
In celebrating the island's culture, the pageant crowned two Bulldogs who show that if teens are willing to put themselves out there, they just might succeed.