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Local teen starts personality pageant for disabled girls, celebrates 3rd year
Miss Exceptional, a personality pageant for disabled girls and teens will be held at A Victorian Country Christmas..
In 2015, Samantha Schubert was your typical Sophomore at Rogers High School, with an atypical brother. Cole Schubert, now 15, was diagnosed with autism and a neuromuscular disorder when he was three and started using a power wheelchair when he was 6. She witnessed his battle to overcome both and with her love of natural pageantry, decided that girls that were like her brother needed the opportunities presented to her in pageants.
"I started competing in pageants when I was 9," says now 18-year-old, Samantha. "They gave me so much confidence and lifelong skills and friendships, I wondered if there was a way to create a program in Washington that would celebrate special needs girls." Samantha teamed up with local non-profit Exceptional Families Network and local holiday festival A Victorian Country Christmas and created the Miss Exceptional Pageant. Using her connections with local pageant groups, Samantha organized donations of awards, judges, and found contestants. The contestants compete on stage with an onstage introduction, if verbal, and modeling a in a dress. The judges look for confidence and personality and an 'ability to benefit from being Miss Exceptional"
The first year Samantha, who co-directs and emcees the event, crowned a single winner, Sofia Martinez, a 15-year-old girl from Prosser, Washington who was diagnosed with Batten's Disease in elementary school. Along with the queen, Samantha added 7 contestants to the Princess Court that first year. All girls are invited to participate in events with Miss Exceptional.
In 2016, Samantha saw her efforts more than double when 16 girls competed. "I was so excited to offer 3 age division Queen titles," says Samantha. She was able to crown Miss Exceptional Teen Brielle Davis, now 13, from Sumner; Miss Exceptional Junior Jessalyn Mackey, now 11, from University Place; and Miss Exceptional Little Kennedy Evangelista, now 9, from Lakewood. All three girls are on the autism spectrum. She was also able to add 13 more girls to the Princess Court.
"All Miss Exceptional contestants receive a crown, banner, and trophy and get to experience activities and appearances in their crown and banners throughout the year," says Miss Exceptional co-director Beth Schubert, Samantha's mother. "We created this to not only be a one-time event, but a series of activities to allow these girls a platform, a sisterhood. This gives them multiple opportunities to build confidence, social skills, and friendships."
Samantha is competing for a title of her own at the Miss Washington USA pageant on November 5, 2017 in Burien. "I hope to bring the things I have learned from my contestants to the national stage." she says. "Whether you walk away with a crown on pageant day or not, you always walk away with an experience that builds character, and my contestants have great character." She often counsels contestants who are disappointed with their loss. "I have lost more competitions than I have won, and those losses have made me who I am today," says the 18 year old co-director. Samantha is a junior at Eastern Washington University majoring in Children's Studies. She successfully completed the Running Start program at Pierce College and received both her high school diploma and Associate's Degree in June, at just 17. She hopes to become a Child Life Specialist at a local children's hospital working with children to understand and adapt to their diagnoses. "Life is limitless," says Samantha. "Be exceptional."
Information on years' competition can be found at www.missexceptional.org. The 2017, competition will feature 5 age division (5-20) titles and a Supreme Queen competition and will be held at A Victorian Country Christmas on the Opry Stage at 12:00 on 12/3.
Exceptional Families Network