BURRILLVILLE – A young woman from Burrillville is among 13 finalists in the Miss Rhode Island Pageant to be held this weekend, an official preliminary for the Miss America Competition.
Sarah Gongoleski, a 2016 graduate from Burrillville High School, will compete in the pageant on Sunday, May 5 at McVinney Auditorium in Providence.
And she’ll bring with her another young lady from town excited for the opportunity to stand beside her as she vies for the crown.
Gongoleski is the mentor of 5-year-old Alexis Cahill. Cahill was dubbed a “princess” at a coronation ceremony last month, and will have the chance to be part of a dance number and walk with Gongoleski on stage at the pageant Sunday.
The pageant contestant currently studies biochemistry at Salve Regina University in Newport.
“I want to be Miss Rhode Island because I want to promote my platform, STEM: Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics,” said Gongoleski. “I struggled in high school and didn’t think I’d graduate, never mind even go to college, but after I was put into the STEM program for my junior and senior year at BHS, I developed a whole new love for learning and outlook on education.”
“As Miss Rhode Island I would like to encourage other schools in RI to offer alternative learning programs like STEM so that other young women could have the same opportunity I had to succeed,” she said.
The winner of the Miss Rhode Island 2019 competition will travel to Orlando, Fl. to represent Rhode Island at the national Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition, as well as compete in the 2019 Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, NJ.
“The Miss America program exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community,” notes a release on the competition.
“Almost all contestants have either received, or are in the process of earning either college or postgraduate degrees, and utilize Miss Rhode Island and Miss America scholarship grants to further their education.”
This year, the contestants were asked to select a little girl between 5-12 yrs old to be their princess and to mentor.
“The RI Princess Program is designed to introduce young ladies, ages 5 through 12 years of age, to the Miss Rhode Island and Outstanding Teen Programs before they reach competition age and to help them understand that Miss America is not just a dream but something they can begin preparing for at a young age,” noted a document on the program.
Cahill turned 5 in March, just barely qualifying for the age range.
“She is very excited to be a ‘real’ princess,” said Alexis’s mother, Kelly Cahill. “At the first rehearsal, the contestants crowned the little girls as their princesses. As a result, she is convinced that she is now a real princess. I explained her role, and she looks forward to the big stage this weekend.”
“I love pageants because they teach young women valuable life skills like how to behave when in an interview, public speaking, poise, and confidence, all of which we take into our professional lives as students, in the workforce, or whatever we wish to pursue,” said Gongoleski.
“Mentoring Alexis has been such a joy,” Gongoleski added. “She is so bright and upbeat. I love being around her.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect princess.”