Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced College student wins Miss Merced County crown

Golden Valley High student wins Miss Merced County's Outstanding Teen

Jillian Stewart, a sophomore at Merced College, was crowned Miss Merced County after a competition on Saturday night at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater.

It was a glamorous night of music, dancing, elegance and grace — and it marked a return of the annual event after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on in-person gatherings. The talent competition included traditional performances from singing and playing a musical instrument, to surprising entries such as footwork with a soccer ball and decorating a cake in seconds. The lovely ladies also answered questions concerning issues of the day and each promoted a social impact initiative. 

Stewart’s theme was “Be You, Be Beautiful,” and she plans to address social media pressure to be perfect amongst young women. 

“I can’t wait to begin this amazing year,” she said. 

Gwyneth Steele-Quevedo, a sophomore at Golden Valley High School, won the crown for Miss Merced County’s Outstanding Teen. The talented actress and performer played the role of Dorothy in the Playhouse Merced production of Wizard of Oz in 2019. On Saturday night, she sang a tune from the movie Grease to perfection, and appeared in a stunning, sparkling gown that wowed the crowd. 

“What a beautiful night with beautiful people!” she exclaimed. 

The night also featured the crowning of Kimberly Vernon as the new Miss Yosemite Valley, and Megan Harlan as the new Miss Sierra Nevada. And the former title holders — Miss Merced County 2020 Kiley Pastori and Miss Merced County’s Outstanding Teen 2020 Bianca Trindade — gave joyful and tearful farewells to a crowd of supporters.  

“I have had so many fun chances to advocate and serve a higher purpose,” Pastori said “I had such an amazing experience working with Merced’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, including helping out at Merced CASA’s first annual  golf tournament, raising $1200 to be donated, and even recording a radio ad.”

This year’s Miss Merced County candidates also included Natalie Gutierrez, a freshman at Stanislaus State; and Evelyn Cisneros, a freshman at Merced College. The Miss Merced County Outstanding Teen candidates also included Cali Yazzie, a 7th grader at Cruickshank Middle School; Kaylie Escobar-Islas, a senior at Merced High School; and Madelyn Moreno, a senior at Livingston High School.

Miss Merced County, Sierra Nevada and Yosemite Valley is a preliminary competition to Miss California and Miss America. 

A 40-year tradition, the program provides scholarship money to young women ages 14-26. Throughout the year, Miss Merced County supports multiple community events, the Children’s Miracle Network and Valley Children’s Hospital.


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