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MCCC Student Jocelyn Vallejo Splits Her Time Between College and Duties as Miss Ecuador

11/5/14


West Windsor, N.J. – Jocelyn Vallejo of Hamilton is not your typical college student.  On weekends, studying for her courses at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) goes hand in hand with appearances in local parades and special events as Miss Ecuador.

In August, Vallejo, a sophomore at MCCC, was selected for the honor by the Ecuadorian Civic Association of Mercer County (ACECOM), which holds a beauty pageant each summer. She was the association's first queen to be seen on television in Central and South America via Univision and Telemundo.

Vallejo, who graduated from Nottingham High School in 2013, was born and raised in Central New Jersey.  Her father is a citizen of Ecuador, which has given her the opportunity to represent her nation of origin.

This is Vallejo’s second pageant title.  Her first, with the Ecuadorian Soccer League of Mercer County, was totally unplanned.  “The teams select a young woman to represent them,” she explains.  A soccer player herself, Vallejo’s own game at the park had been unexpectedly canceled that day in April 2013 so she decided to watch one of the men’s games.  “The guys asked me to compete and I figured why not.”

The then 17-year-old went home and quickly prepared.  “The pageant was held right on the soccer field.  I competed with 15 other girls.  I was so surprised when they crowned me Miss Liga Ecuatoriana 2013,” Vallejo said.

Jocelyn Vallejo is a full-time college student while
wearing the crown as Miss Ecuador of Mercer County.

She recalls nailing the question she was asked during the competition.  “They asked, ‘What does soccer mean to you?’  That was an easy one.  I said that it’s about passion and love for the game and unity among team members.”

At the time, Vallejo had no idea just how big her kingdom was – 600 players and 20 teams.  And, with the crown came responsibilities. She faithfully attended games every Sunday, made speeches and participated in parades and festivals.

Vallejo enrolled at Mercer the following fall. She says she chose MCCC because it was close to home and would allow her to continue in her role as Miss Liga Ecuatoriana while going to college and figuring out her career direction.
 
She notes that the public speaking class she took with Professor Alvyn Haywood during her first semester enhanced her communication skills, a needed asset as she addressed soccer crowds each Sunday and occasionally gave press interviews.

Vallejo says the league became like a big family to her.  She says she cried when the day came to give up her crown.

While she was not focused on continuing on the pageant track, Vallejo was encouraged to compete on a bigger stage for the title of Miss Ecuador of Mercer County.  But first she needed to raise money for a pageant wardrobe, which included a casual dress, a typical Ecuadorian dress and an evening gown.  “I raised enough for two of them, and then Esmeralda’s Fashions in Trenton donated the gown and the shoes,” she said.

Vallejo spent time researching her culture and working with a pageant trainer, who helped her lose some of her American accent when speaking Spanish.  Her goal, she says, was to represent the ideal woman of her country.

She was crowned on August 2 before a packed crowd at the Infinity Club in Trenton.  The four-judge panel included one local representative and others from New York, Los Angeles and Ecuador.
 
When asked her question by the judges about the relevance of beauty pageants, Vallejo did not hesitate.  “We represent the beauty, intelligence and charisma of our culture as Ecuadorian women,” she said.

At Christmas time, Vallejo will visit her family in Ecuador and will make appearances while she is there as Miss Ecuador of Mercer County, New Jersey.

As she continues her studies at Mercer, Vallejo says it’s working out well.  She especially likes the small classes and supportive faculty.  Studying Liberal Arts with a concentration in Social Science, she is focusing on a possible career as a social worker, a goal that dates back to high school when she served as a peer mentor assisting the guidance counselors with troubled students.  One time she got to work side-by-side with a social worker.  “I thought I might want to do that work,” she recalls.

One lesson that Jocelyn Vallejo has clearly learned already is to get the most from each opportunity.  She has heightened her awareness and pride in her culture and has improved her communication and leadership skills.  Mercer’s very own Miss Ecuador is learning and growing every day.

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