By Pat Young
For Hometown News
As Grace Smith, a Ponce Inlet 14-year-old, heads to Broward College in Davie the weekend of Oct. 5-6 to compete in the 2014 Miss Florida Teen USA pageant against 66 other title holders, she already has a long list of accomplishments behind her and ambitious goals ahead of her.
By competing in the pageants, she says she hopes to accomplish better interview skills to help her in the future. She also hopes to put the spotlight on another one of her passions.
"By acquiring this title, I hope to spread the name and cause of a charity I support, 'Operation Changing Lives.' They raise money to help children with cleft palate and cleft lip," she said.
It is a cause that is close to her heart. Her brother, Cooper, now 21, was born with a cleft palate.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 5-foot 11-inch teenager started in pageants about five years ago. The Chicago-area native earned the title of National American Miss Jr. Teen Princess in St. Charles, Ill., when she was 9 years old. At age 10 in Chicago, she competed in ages 5 to 27, winning the Sunburst Grand Supreme title. She competed in this national pageant organization again in Atlanta, earning the Mini Supreme title over 200 other competitors. She moved to Florida several years ago with her parents, Brian and Kathy Smith, and brothers Austin and Cooper. Earlier this year she was crowned Miss West Volusia Teen USA.
"Gracie has worked hard. She is one of the tallest and most beautiful contestants, but she is also one of the youngest," her father said. "Our hope is that she will advance to the top16, our wish is that she advance to the top 5 and our dream is that she is crowned the next Miss Florida Teen USA."
Mr. Smith said once Grace registers at the competition, they will not be able to see her except on stage during the pageant show and at a "Meet and Greet" for family and friends Saturday evening after the show. Grace will compete in interviews Friday afternoon, which involve a closed panel of judges asking questions. On Saturday, at the preliminary pageant show, there will be an opening number with all contestants participating. Then the contestants will compete in swimsuit and formal wear on stage.
On Sunday, the top 16 contestants will be announced, followed by another swimsuit and formal wear competition as well as one more on-stage question. The top 5 will then be announced, followed by one last question, before the Miss Florida Teen USA is announced.
Grace is a freshman at Warner Christian Academy enrolled in all honors classes. She plays volleyball, plays the piano, and is passionate about reading and writing.
She would like to pursue her dream of being an English professor, working with literature and composition.
"I started reading when I was really, really young," Grace said.
She would like to instill her passion for reading and writing in other young people.