Meet the nine candidates competing this year in the Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester cultural pageant. The pageant is being held at St. John Fisher College in the Basil 135 Auditorium. Tickets will be $15 at the door with doors opening at 1:30pm and the show beginning at 2:00pm.
Neyda Colon Di Maria
Neyda is 16 years old and attends the School of the Arts. She is currently a dance major at the school and has connected with Puerto Rican culture through dance. Neyda will be representing her father’s home town of Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico. On her free time, she likes writing poetry and plans on experimenting in all aspects of the dance field. Neyda has learned to embrace the Puerto Rican culture through dance and her family and she has immense pride in being Latina. She says, “I’ve been raised by amazing people, especially women and to be miss Puerto Rico you have to be an amazing role model, and I’ve had such good role models in my life that I would love to give back to them.”
Tia Rivera is 17 years old and attends Greece Odyssey. She plans on either attending Temple University or Arizona State University once completing her final year in high school. She is representing her aunt’s hometown of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico in this weekends pageant. She has run track throughout high school and loves to spend her free time working on her fitness. Tia has competed in Miss Teen USA and feels as though her previous experience will make her prepared for this weekend. She would love to become Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester to be able to inspire local Latin students to do well in school. She says, “being bilingual gives us so many more job opportunities so we have to do use the language to our advantage.”
Yarlinelys is 14 years old and attends Roberto Clementes School Number 8. She’s excited to begin high school in the fall where she will be enrolled in the IB Program. Her favorite subject at the moment is Spanish because she loves being able to tutor her fellow classmates. Yarlinelys will be representing her hometown of Cayey during the pageant. Whenever she has free time Yarlinelys would much rather being playing sports, such as volleyball and gymnastics, more than using her phone and watching TV. She says that she could be the next Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester because she’s ready to use her voice as a tool of the young Latinas in the community. “I know how to win and I know how to lose,” she says, “If I win great, but if I don’t I’ll be back next year ready to fix my mistakes.”
Mercedez is 16 years old and attends Gates Chili high school. She plans on taking her current interests of Anatomy, Physiology and Forensic Science to the Army after school. Mercedez would like to work in the K-9 Unit. She is representing the city of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico this weekend. She says that she chose Guaynabo because that is where the strong woman of her family are from. Mercedez participated in the pageant last year and has come back to embody her quote in her previous bio which stated, “If you fail, keep trying and try again.” She is ready to take on the responsibilities of being crowing Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester because of her previous experience. Mercedez would take the opportunity to become more involved with the Latin community and wants to represent the beautiful culture.
Ashley is 15 years old and attends Rochester Prep High School. She enjoys all of her science classes. She dreams on attending Syracuse University in hopes to become an OBGYN when she is older. She finds pride in calling herself a Latina because of all of the rich cultures that stand behind the names. “To me a Latina is not one culture but three Taínos, Spaniards, and African Americans that makes us so blessed. Its so unique”, she says. Ashley really enjoys helping people and little kids. She would take advantage as her role as Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester, if she were to win, by setting up fundraisers for young mothers who need help with newborns or toddlers. She wants to be the support that moms need because to her “being a mom is the hardest thing in the world.” On her free time Ashley loves spending time with her family and friends. Ashely will be representing her mother’s hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico during the pageant.
Danisha is 16 years old and attends the School of the Arts. She is currently studying dance. She also enjoys playing on her Varsity Softball team with fellow contestant Cassandra. She became interested in doing the pageant after seeing the Queen and Princess at the Puerto Rican festival last year. This weekend she will be representing the hometown of both of her parent’s, Salinas, Puerto Rico. Danisha feels as though whoever becomes Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester should be a humble individual, in which she feels as though she is. She enjoys helping people and understands that being the Queen or Princess would give her the opportunity to reach out and help more people.
Jalisa is 14 years old and attending Our Lady of Mercy high school. She hopes to carry her current love of math and science to college where she will hopefully study astronomy and become an astronaut for NASA. Jalisa stay busy during the school year playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse, and spends any of her free time with her family. This is the first time Jalisa has competed in the pageant but, she has wanted to compete for the last 5 years. She feels as though the Queen has to be a person in the community who is a leader and role model for the youth. She wants people to look past her age and understand that she is mature enough for a role like Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester. “I want to win to prove the point that, even though you’re young you can still be whatever you want to.”
Cassandra is 16 years old and attending the School of the Arts. She is a dance major and began dancing with the Borinquen Dance Theatre when she was little. She is representing her dad’s hometown of Guayama, Puerto Rico. She was inspired to participate in the pageant after her aunt competed several years ago and her cousin won it two years ago. She has taken the opportunity to learn about herself and her Puerto Rican culture. She feels as though she could be the best Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester because she could be a positive role model to the youth. She says, “I didn’t completely connect with the culture growing up and I want to be able to lead others into our culture.” She’s looking to change the perceptions of not only the way people view Latino’s but also the way Latino’s view themselves.
Alejandra is 15 years old. She attends East High School. Alejandra feels as though she could be the Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester because of her strong love for the culture. She feels as though she could be a good role model and would be able to gain respect from holding this position.
Come out to Basil Auditorium to see all the hard work these women have put into the pageant for the last couple of months. For more events by the Puerto Rican Festival you can visit prfestival.com.