While growing up in Albuquerque, Sienna Mascareñas often found herself in the minority during math classes – especially so at Valley High School.
Despite being one of very few girls in the class, she didn’t let that deter her.
“I grew up with my Dad, who is a math teacher in Albuquerque,” she says. “My mom is a STEM gal as well. She has a degree in computer science.”
It’s no wonder Mascareñas is a junior majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in mathematics at the University of Alabama.
The New Mexico native is also on her way to Connecticut to represent New Mexico in the Miss America competition, which begins on Sunday, Dec. 12 and runs through Thursday, Dec. 16. The finals can be streamed at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16 on Peacock.
This year’s competition will allow audiences to stream the event live across all time zones for the first time ever – so the West Coast will be able to tune in at the same time the East Coast.
“It’s so special,” she says of the honor. “I never imagined I would be here, but now I can bring awareness to my social platform.”
She will be competing to win a major scholarship and advocate for “Girls Get Math: Breaking Gender Stereotypes in STEM.”
This initiative serves to break those gender stereotypes and encourage and empower women to pursue careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“I’m able to share my social impact and how I think young girls should have a career in math and science,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of females in math. I was one of three when I was taking advanced math classes and it could be discouraging. What drove me more to pursue a STEM career is that I can help lead the way. I was lucky enough to have Danica McKellar (actress and education advocate) as one of my mentors. It’s good to have that motivation.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Miss America Competition, which was the first competition to offer a talent category and soon after, scholarship awards for young women to be able to go to college and further their education.
According to organizers, this past year, candidates were no longer judged on outward appearance, which means the elimination of the swimsuit competition and additional time and focus on the candidates’ voices to be heard more often.
“Throughout the competition and in interviews, candidates had additional opportunities to advocate for their social impact initiatives and to demonstrate how they are uniquely qualified for the exciting and challenging 365-day job of being Miss America,” the organization says. “(We) stand for empowering young women across the country to be the best they can be through leadership, talent, communication skills and smarts.”
Mascareñas, 20, earned her spot after being crowned Miss New Mexico on June 25, at the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts in Alamogordo.
She had the opportunity to take a semester off from college to prepare for the competition, but decided to enroll and find a balance to it all.
A typical day for Mascareñas at the University of Alabama consists of waking up at 7:30 a.m. and heading to a math class.
Then it’s going to practice on her dance routine for the competition.
Again, another math class.
“Then I call my mom to work on questions as I prepare for the competition,” she says. “It’s a full-time job that I’m having to balance. It’s a great opportunity for me to represent not only where I’m from, but the person I am.”
Mascareñas’ foray into the pageant world happened while she was in the Cinderella International Scholarship Pageant. It is a youth development scholarship program that offers opportunity for achievement and recognition.
“I competed in the teen program and I was awarded an in-kind scholarship to college,” she says. “I’m super grateful for the opportunity.”
Leading up to the competition, Mascareñas doesn’t know exactly what to expect.
She is familiar with the competition process.
“The great thing is that none of the women competing in this has done this before,” she says. “We’re all in the same race and it will be amazing to meet the other 50 women. I have moments of being super excited and then getting completely nervous. I’ve used every free second to prepare. I’m giving it my all.”