Growing up in Albuquerque, Sienna Mascareñas often found herself in the minority during math lessons – especially at Valley High School.
Despite being one of the very few girls in the class, she didn’t let that deter her.
“I grew up with my father who is a math teacher in Albuquerque,” she says. “My mom is a STEM girl too. She has a degree in computer science.”
No wonder Mascarenas is a freshman in chemical engineering with a minor in mathematics at the University of Alabama.
The New Mexico native is also heading to Connecticut to represent New Mexico in the Miss America pageant, which begins Sunday, December 12 and runs through Thursday, December 16. 16 on the peacock.
This year’s competition will allow fans to broadcast the event live across all time zones for the first time ever – so the West Coast will be able to tune in to it simultaneously on the East Coast.
“It’s very special,” she said of the honor. “I never imagined I would be here, but now I can spread awareness on my social platform.”
You will compete to win a major scholarship and advocate for “Girls Gain Math: Breaking Gender Stereotypes in STEM.”
This initiative works to break those gender stereotypes and encourage and empower women to pursue careers in STEM – STEM fields.
“I am able to share my social impact and how I think young girls should do math and science,” she says. “There weren’t many females in math. I was one of three when I was taking advanced math classes and that can be frustrating. What motivated me the most to pursue a STEM career was that I could help lead the way. I was lucky enough to have Danica McKellar (actress and advocate) about education) as one of my mentors. It’s good to have that motivation.”
This year marks the centenary of the Miss America pageant, which was the first competition to introduce the talent category and soon after, scholarship awards for young women to be able to go to college and further their education.
According to the organizers, last year nominees were no longer judged on outward appearance, which meant canceling the swimwear competition, extra time and focusing on the candidates’ votes to be heard more often.
“During the competition and in interviews, candidates have had additional opportunities to advocate for their social impact initiatives and to demonstrate how uniquely they qualify for the exciting and challenging 365-day job of being Miss America,” the organization says. “(We) advocate empowering young women across the country to be their best through leadership, talent, communication skills, and intelligence.”
Mascarenas, 20, earned her spot after being crowned Miss New Mexico on June 25, at the Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts in Alamogordo.
She had the opportunity to take a semester of college to prepare for the competition, but decided to sign up and find a balance in all of it.
A typical day for Mascarenas at the University of Alabama consists of getting up at 7:30 a.m. and heading to math class.
Then she’ll practice her dance routine for competition.
Again, another math class.
“Then I call my mom to work on the questions while I prepare for the competition,” she says. “It’s a full-time job and I have to balance it out. It’s a great opportunity for me to represent not just where I come from, but the person I am.”
Mascareñas’ entry into the contest world happened while she was in the Cinderella International Scholarship Contest. It is a youth development scholarship program that provides an opportunity for achievement and recognition.
“I participated in the teen program and got an in-kind scholarship to college,” she says. “I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
In the lead up to the competition, Mascarenas doesn’t know exactly what to expect.
She is familiar with the competition process.
“The great thing is that none of the female competitors have done this before,” she says. “We are all in the same race and it would be great to meet 50 other women. I have moments of intense excitement and then totally nervous. I used every free second to prepare. I give it my all.”