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Back-to-School Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 26, 2010

Big dreams will walk down the Albany Pageant runway with Jourdin and Cascone

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

Two local girls who have big dreams are entering the Albany Pageant sponsored by Nationals, Incorporated.

“I am in this pageant to make new friends, have fun, gain more confidence speaking in public and, hopefully, win scholarship money for college as it is my hope to go to college, have a great career I love, buy a house, and have a family,” writes Alyssa Nicole Jourdin.

She is a 12-year-old Farnsworth Middle School student.

Justine Cascone, a 13-year-old entering the ninth grade at Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville, hopes to win scholarship money so she can go to college to become a film producer.

She was introduced to filmmaking while doing a tech project at school, she said, and it enthralled her.

Both girls received letters saying they had been recommended for the pageant, without specifying who recommended them. Alyssa thinks it may have been through a dance school she attended; Justine believes it may have been one of her schoolteachers.

“I’ve always been interested in beauty pageants,” said Justine. “I’ve watched them on TV. I love the glamour of it all.”

Justine lists as her interests: “reading, writing, sketching, painting, horseback riding, cooking, fashion design and, of course, just hanging out with friends.”

She’s happy to go back to school next week. Her favorite subject is English. “I love writing. I write all the time,” she said, noting she writes both poetry and stories.

How does she find time for her many interests? “I don’t do sports,” she says.

Alyssa, on the other hand, is immersed in sports. She rides horses and helped teach swimming this summer at Guilderland’s camp program.

A dedicated runner, she has been on the high school cross-country team since seventh grade; she has also run in charity races such as the Freihofer’s Run and the Komen’s Breast Cancer run.

A Girl Scout since sixth grade, she has done lots of community service projects, and mentored a student who spoke English as a second language.

The Albany Pageant will be held at The Egg on Sept. 11. Alyssa will be competing in the Miss Pre-Teen division, and Justine will compete in the Miss Junior Teen division; there are four divisions in all, for girls between the ages of 7 and 19. The winners go on to compete in the Cities of America National Competition.

Each girl must raise roughly $500 through sponsors in order to be in the pageant. Half of the money is due by Aug. 28 when a training class is held at the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road.

Jarrod Jourdin, a sheriff’s deputy, said the pageant world is new to him and his wife, Kimberly, who works at First Stop. They have four daughters; Alyssa is the second oldest. “My wife looked into it, and most of the points are based on the interview. There is no bathing-suit modeling — just casual wear and formal wear,” he said.

The 2008 Albany winner of Miss Pre-Teen Pageant, McKenzie Grant, lives across the street from the Jourdins. Also a Farnsworth Middle School student, she won an all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando to compete in the 2009 national competition; it was her first time entering a pageant.

“I didn’t think I would go that far,” McKenzie said at the time. “It was shocking. I was really surprised but really happy.”

“My wife has talked with McKenzie’s mother and she has dresses that Alyssa can use,” said Mr. Jourdin.

The girls have to buy their own outfits for the competition and, although Justine likes to design clothes, she hasn’t mastered the art of sewing them, she said.

Justine’s family — her father, Thomas, who works for the State Police and is a captain in Voorheesville’s fire department; her mother, Sherry, who works for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services; her 10-year-old brother; and her 5-year-old sister — is new to the pageant world, too.

“My wife and her talked about it and decided it would be a great experience,” said Mr. Cascone. While Justine’s brother isn’t interested in the pageant, Mr. Cascone said, “The baby thinks it’s wonderful.”

He went on about his daughter, “Out of 300 contestants that were interviewed, she was in the top 150, so I guess she did well….Our whole family will be there at The Egg on Sept. 11.”

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