Miss San Luis concludes yearlong reign with message about risks of teen pregnancy
SAN LUIS, Ariz. – Stephanie Pereda wants high school girls to carry backpacks filled with books, not diaper bags.
In the past year, Pereda waged a campaign against teenage pregnancy as part of her platform in her bid for Miss San Luis and later Miss Arizona.
With the help of her mother – Dr. Elizabeth Pereda – she addressed the risks of teen pregnancy in periodic presentations she made to girls and their parents at the San Luis Library and other locations.
The campaign – which she named "Carry a Backpack Instead of a Diaper Bag" – gave her the occasion to spread the message that early pregnancy not only can endanger the health of young mothers but can derail their education and their dreams.
Pereda's one-year term as Miss San Luis comes to an end Oct. 19, when she passes along the crown to her successor for 2013-14.
"I really enjoyed every moment I've had as Miss San Luis," Pereda said recently, adding that the high point of her reign was the bid for Miss Arizona. And while she didn't win the state title, she said the Arizona pageant proved to be a valuable learning experience in more ways than one.
Among the benefits was improving her command of English. Pereda, whose first language was Spanish, had already taken English classes at Arizona Western College, and her bid for the state title further helped her improve her language skills.
"I had to be able to speak in both languages," she said. "Toastmasters really helped me. I feel that I grew as a person as well as a woman."
The annual contest for the Miss San Luis title was an independent competition until two years ago, when it became affiliated with the Miss Arizona Scholarship Pageant, and Pereda's successor will advance along with the eventual Miss Yuma County to the state pageant.
Pereda has some words of advice for the whichever one of five candidates is chosen as the new Miss San Luis in the Oct. 19 pageant at the Cesar Chavez Cultural Center.
"Enjoy every minute; enjoy every moment," she said. "Enjoy yourself and work hard. As Miss San Luis, you will have to have personal goals; you will have to set goals for yourself."
Pereda has goals of her own, starting with earning an associate degree in business administration at AWC, where she is currently enrolled. From there, she wants to transfer to the University of Arizona and study toward degrees in both marketing and fashion, with the ultimate goal of working in the fashion industry in New York or Los Angeles.
Born in Yuma, Pereda spent her childhood and teen years in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., where her mother is a physician. After completing high school in Mexico, she moved to San Luis, Ariz., three years ago.
Having decided to compete for the San Luis title, she settled on a theme for her platform after learning that Yuma County had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state and nation.
Apart from statistics, Pereda said, her choice of teen pregnancy prevention was motivated by friends from her youth who had had questions about human sexuality but were too timid to ask an adult.
"My message was that teens shouldn't be afraid to ask questions about sexuality."