Jacqueline Petescia, a freshman health and society major at the University of Texas at Austin, recently won the title of Miss Austin 2019. Jacqueline runs a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Friends Don’t Count Chromosomes, is a part of the Omega chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority, and is a classically trained opera singer and yodeler.
Learn more about Jacqueline Petescia’s path to becoming Miss Austin 2019 by reading the Q&A below.
What was your reaction to being selected for Miss Austin 2019?
I was so honored, humbled and excited to have been chosen to represent my city. I honestly was not expecting to win because the competition was so good. There were girls competing who were far older and more accomplished, who are currently in medical school or running their own businesses. As a freshman at UT Austin, I felt as though I was far more of a novice at life compared to these women, but my passion, determination and drive for style, service, scholarship and success lead me to the title of Miss Austin.
What does the process of running for Miss Austin look like?
The Miss Austin competition is a preliminary local pageant for the Miss America Organization. We used to compete in a swimsuit category, but it has been replaced with an onstage interview to focus on what the women of Miss America do and who they are, rather than how they look.
In addition to the onstage interview, we compete a 20-minute private panel interview with topics ranging from our social impacts, to current events, to controversial topics. We also perform a 90 second onstage talent and, of course, an evening gown walk in which we share a statement about our social impact. A social impact is something you plan to bring awareness to your year as a titleholder. For me, it is my 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Friends Don’t Count Chromosomes, which is an organization I started to help kids living with intellectual and developmental disabilities become involved with their community.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Besides starting a nonprofit, I’m most proud of my involvement with the Miss America Organization. I was able to pay for my first year of undergrad with the scholarship funds I obtained by being the “Quality of Life” finalist, national highest GPA winner, and state community service winner in last year’s Miss Texas competition.
I have a passion for working with this organization to spread the message of inclusivity and for the opportunity to work closely with Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals. Volunteering through CMN Hospitals as Miss Austin has influenced me to pursue a career as a neonatal doctor, so that I can help premature babies the moment they are born regardless of their parents’ financial background. This is a driving force for my studies at UT Austin and my passion for volunteering with CMN.
How has being a part of the Omega chapter of Alpha Phi helped you in your endeavors?
The support I have gained from my sisters has been unlike any I’ve received before. My sorority sisters are always there cheering me on and to remind me to get back on the right path. They’re the first to tell me I’m doing a great job, and the first to be honest when I need real critics.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to graduate from UT Austin and go on to medical school so that I can ultimately become a neonatal doctor. I’m hoping that sometime between now and going to medical school that I win Miss Texas and then, Miss America, so that I can continue to grow and promote my social impact, Friends Don’t Count Chromosomes and CMN.
What does success look like to you?
All I want to do with my life is to help others, whether it is as Miss Austin, Miss Texas, Miss America, or even as a neonatal doctor. This passion will help to guide me through on my path to heal those around me. I’m not asking for world peace or to change the world, because realistically I know I can’t do that on my own. What I want is to change the lives of those who come in contact with me — to be the beacon of hope, love and charity in the way that kids in CMN Hospitals eyes light up when they see a real-life princess walk into the room. As Miss Austin, I want to be able to teach people to have compassion, empathy and love for others because it’s what our world needs most right now.