By Carol Lawson-Swezey
There is much more to beauty pageants than a pretty face. Today’s scholarship competitions bring together the best of the best to compete for college money and a title and help girls develop poise, self-esteem and self-confidence. Several local young women have been honored by the Miss America organization in recent months. The crown they proudly wear has four points to signify success, service, style and scholarship. Two young women are now representing the City of Clovis for 2015 while a Clovis North student was recently crowned the 2015 Miss California Outstanding Teen.
Avery Grooms: Miss California Outstanding Teen 2015
Clovis North High School senior Avery Grooms is on the fast track to the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant.
Avery, 17, had placed first runner-up in the Miss Fresno contest earlier in the year and then was appointed a few weeks later to serve as Miss Sierra Nevada. She then won the title of Miss California Outstanding Teen, out of 42 candidates, at the recent Miss California pageant, held at the Fresno Convention Center June 27. At the end of July, she will compete for the national title of Miss America Outstanding Teen in Orlando, Florida.
Avery, the only child of Dr. Harold Grooms, an OB/GYN doctor, and Christine, a realtor, is a local girl, born and raised in Fresno.
At Clovis North, she is involved in the Pep Team, Competition Pep Team, Leadership and student council. She is also active in community dance and theater, most recently being featured in the Children’s Musical Theater productions of “Into the Woods” and “Annie.”
During the pageant competition, she performed a lyrical dance to the song “Oceans,” by Christian band Hillsong UNITED. That performance won her the talent preliminary award at the Miss California event. Her pageant platform is “Fuel Up to Play 60,” a national nutrition and fitness program to support breakfast for underprivileged children.
“The point is to get them fueled so they can have more focus,” Avery said. “I know from my perspective, when I’m too busy and don’t eat, it decreases my concentration and I wanted to help the kids who have to deal with this every day.”
Avery initially decided to enter the Miss Fresno competition at the urging of a friend who had tried it.
“I always heard good things about it and had more time and was able to do it and was glad I did,” she said.
She received a $500 scholarship for placing first runner-up as Miss Fresno Outstanding Teen and a $2,500 scholarship as Miss California Outstanding Teen.
Avery, who is considering pursuing an education and a career in directing, said the overall experience has been life altering and expansive- inspiring her to try and do things she had never done. She was surprised and delighted to have won the honor of Miss California Outstanding Teen.
“I was just trying not to get my hopes up and told myself it was ok if I didn’t win so when I did, I was in more shock,” she said. “My parents are still in shock and proud and very happy.”
Avery said she encourages other young women to enter the competition as they will always learn from the experience. She is looking forward to her public appearances and being able to promote her platform and make as much of a positive impact as she can.
“After my reign, I want people to remember that I always remained true to myself and I never gave up,” she said.
Taylor Coloka: Miss Clovis 2015
Since the age of 3, Taylor Coloka has been dancing and dreaming of performing on a big stage. That dream came true in June when she performed a contemporary routine to a Whitney Houston song, “I will always love you,” for the Miss California pageant. She represented our city at the statewide competition after winning the top prize in the Miss Clovis contest in March.
“I dreamed about dancing to that song on the Miss California stage, and was very happy with my performance,” Taylor said.
The home grown Clovis girl, a graduate of Clovis High, is the only child of Christol and David Coloka, who own and manage Wish Boutique and Salon in Clovis.
Taylor, 19, is a student at California State University Fresno pursuing a degree in Liberal Studies and a multiple subject credential to become an elementary school teacher. Her future plans include obtaining a Master of Education Degree in Principal Leadership and an Administration Credential. Towards that goal, Taylor earned a $2000 scholarship award for winning Miss Clovis and $1000 for her participation in the Miss California competition.
Her hobbies include traveling, working out and photography.
“I fell in love with photography and started my own freelance business,” Taylor said. “I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to combine my favorite hobby with a business.”
She has also been dancing for 16 years, trained in many different styles, and has danced professionally for the San Francisco 49ers.
Taylor’s platform for the competition is “First Book,” a national organization which works to end illiteracy in America.
“We provide books and educational resources to underprivileged children. I have worked in my community by starting the library at the Autism Center at Fresno State and organizing a Children’s Book Festival in Old Town Clovis with guest authors and a book drive raising over 300 books to benefit the children of the Marjoree Mason Center, which provides housing and services to victims of domestic violence,” she said.
Taylor said she is “extremely blessed” to have a very supportive family who is there for her in any circumstance. She’s also learned through her experiences that when one door closes, another one opens.
“I have had trouble accepting failure at times, but now I have learned to embrace the adventures and know that everything happens for a reason,” she said.
The Miss Clovis competition was her first pageant and going on to participate in the Miss California pageant was a wonderful opportunity.
“I have always loved entertaining, so performing on the Miss California stage was exhilarating,” she said. Taylor said that although she didn’t win at the state level, she “was able to spend the week with many talented women and learned tons and made memories that will last a lifetime.”
She will continue her reign as Miss Clovis, making public appearances, promoting her platform and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
“In addition to the work I’ve done with my platform, First Book, I have been very involved in my community,” she said. “Some events include raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals on National Pancake Day; volunteering at Relay for Life in Clovis; reading to more than fifteen classrooms in Clovis Unified to advocate for reading; modeling for the Mercedes-Benz of Fresno Spring Fashion Show; and attending the Mayor of Clovis’ Breakfast and the Clovis Volunteer Banquet.”
“My biggest goal as Miss Clovis 2015 is to inspire as many people as possible to chase their dreams, take chances, and stay committed to their education,” Taylor said. “My advice for young women is to work hard and believe in yourself. You’ll never know what you are capable of if you don’t give it your best shot.”
Kiley Barton: Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen
For Kiley Barton, the 2015 Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen, her decision to compete in the Miss Clovis Scholarship pageant just happened by chance.
“I was actually shopping for a formal dress and another girl was there shopping for a dress for the pageant,” Kiley said. “Her mom talked to my mom and later we looked up the pageant online. I am so glad we did. It is an amazing program and I have learned so much during my time competing.”
Kiley was born in Ventura but has lived in Clovis and attended school here since age four. Her parents are Nora, who works in insurance for Aetna, and Jason, a California Highway Patrol officer. Kiley has three brothers, Michael, 20, Ryan, 14, and Evan, 12, and three exchange sisters from Norway; Julie, Hanna and Miriam.
She was a competitive gymnast until age 12 and still competes for Clovis East and loves pole vaulting and singing.
“I started singing for the school choir at Freedom Elementary in the 4th grade and continued with choir until the end of my 8th grade year. I wish I could have continued but my high school schedule did not allow an extra elective,” Kiley said. “I have been blessed with a loving family that has always supported me and my endeavors, but building enough confidence to perform alone on stage has been something that I’ve had to work hard on overcoming.”
Although she had been involved in student leadership and will be serving as Senior Class President at Clovis East this coming school year, she found herself immersed in a long list of firsts.
“I know it sounds cliché but it truly was life changing,” she said. “I performed on a stage in front of an audience for the first time in my life. I learned interview skills and successfully completed an eight minute interview in front of a panel of judges. I made lifelong friends and gained confidence and poise.”
Kiley, 16, is also a double varsity athlete for the Clovis East gymnastic and Track and Field teams. When she volunteered in a special education classroom last school year, she found the path to her passion. She wants to become a special education teacher but hasn’t yet decided where to pursue her degree. It is that passion which led her to choose her pageant platform of “Disability Awareness and Inclusion.”
“I noticed that the special education class was very separate from the general education and I wanted to see us doing more activities together,” Kiley said. “I am looking forward to finishing my year as Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen by really promoting my platform. I want to reach students at all the high schools in Clovis and help them understand that general education and special education students truly aren’t that different and we need to be more inclusive of all students to give everyone a great high school experience.”
Kiley sang the song “Bound to You” by Christina Aguilera for the talent portion of the competition and received a $1000 scholarship for winning the Miss Clovis Outstanding Teen title.
“The other contestants were all so talented and beautiful, I was very surprised to win,” she said.
Kiley said it has been an amazing experience to represent her adopted city at events like the Clovis Rodeo and the Clovis Volunteer Banquet and she has learned to successfully balance all the aspects of her life with the commitments of her title. She wants to continue serving and learning more about her community and being a positive role model for other young women.
When she was preparing to compete in the Miss California pageant held recently in Fresno in June, she felt nervous at competing against 42 other teens.
“But it turned out to be a lot of fun,” Kiley said. “Once you meet all the girls, they’re all so nice and I made a lot of new friends I will keep for the rest of my life. It didn’t feel like a competition but more like a camp with your friends. There is so much more involved in the Miss America organization than a pretty face. It is my goal to show other girls how important all four points of the crown are: success, service, style and scholarship.”