FAYETTEVILLE-MANLIUS SCHOOL DISTRICT – Fayetteville-Manlius High School can proudly say it has royalty in its midst now that one of its students was crowned a state queen at this year’s National American Miss New York pageant.
Junior Olivia Sczerbaniewicz was crowned the 2023 winner in the Aug. 7 contest’s junior teen age division. In front of an applauding crowd gathered inside the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, New Jersey, the 16-year-old was presented a crystal trophy under the spotlight and donned with a sparkling tiara and congratulatory sash.
“It was really exciting to finally earn the title,” she said. “I felt very rewarded and I felt like my hard work had really paid off.”
Now in her 10th year competing in National American Miss pageants, Sczerbaniewicz was first runner-up in the junior teen division two straight years, but she managed to beat out about 30 other participants to secure the recent victory in her final year of being in that age group.
“She’s worked so hard,” said her mother Alison. “It was just a really great, surreal kind of feeling when she placed first runner-up two years in a row and then won the title this year. We were very happy, and we’ve been watching the video a lot since Aug. 7.”
Olivia Sczerbaniewicz, a resident of Manlius, said that her favorite part about representing New York in the competition was representing Upstate New York specifically.
“I was actually one of the only girls competing for the title of New York Jr. Teen who was from Upstate,” she said. “The last few queens have been from downstate, so I really like being able to represent the north. I love being able to show people that there’s so much more to New York than just New York City, although the city is great.”
The National American Miss pageants are dedicated to encouragement of today’s girls and tomorrow’s leaders, partly through the awarding of $1.5 million in cash, scholarships and prizes to assist in the societal development of young women and girls nationwide.
Based on criteria relating to inner beauty, poise and presentation, the organization’s pageants are held in each state across the country for ages four to 24. This past August’s pageant in Princeton brought New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania contestants into the same venue on the same date but with separated judging.
To win the title of 2023 National American Miss New York Jr. Teen Queen, Sczerbaniewicz had to first compete in a formal wear segment that saw her walk onstage with a pink gown and her father, Eric, as her escort.
Next she had to give a personal introduction in the form of a 30-second speech where she stated her name, her hometown, and what she wants to be when she grows up. At that point, she revealed that she has ambitions to be a biomedical engineer so she can make adaptive medical devices for people with special needs.
The third part of the competition, the personal interview, has become her favorite over the years. That portion of the pageant involves a minute-long interview with a panel of judges about the contestant’s submitted resume.
During that part, Sczerbaniewicz discussed her grade point average, her varsity and travel softball playing, a bit about her appreciation of Green Lakes State Park, and the honors she has to her name like the Gold Presidential Service Award granted to her last year in recognition of her volunteer work.
Outside of school, Sczerbaniewicz volunteers at the achievement center for children and adults with Down syndrome GiGi’s Playhouse as well as Worth More Nation, an organization that strives to empower girls impacted by loss or trauma through fashion, pageantry and giving.
A volunteer with Worth More Nation for going on six years, she said she enjoys seeing dresses donated to individuals who have been in foster care or affected by trauma in their lives.
“Some of them receive their first formal dress that they’ve ever had,” Sczerbaniewicz said. “I think every girl deserves that moment to feel like a princess, whether they’re five years old or whether they’re a mom now.”
For GiGi’s Playhouse, the young pageant winner has filled the role of group leader for the Destination Discovery program that supports the growth of motor skills, social skills and language in a playful, casual space.
“Working there shows you that everyone has a different way of approaching things,” she said. “It really opens your eyes to the capabilities of every individual, and I absolutely love it.”
At the pageant, Sczerbaniewicz also received the award for best resume and won the optional casual wear modeling competition, which centers on a routine of one’s choice with a customized themed outfit.
For her theme, Sczerbaniewicz went with CEO Barbie and wore a pink business suit to signify, as her mom said, that “she can do anything she wants to do.”
Winning the junior teen title also meant a special invitation to compete at this year’s nationals in Orlando, Florida, the week of Thanksgiving.
“I’m super excited to go to Orlando to compete on such a large scale,” Olivia Sczerbaniewicz said. “I’m excited to meet people from across the United States and get the chance to hopefully share my message to people on a national level.”
Thankful for the fact that no one mispronounced her last name into the mic at the August competition and for the friends she made there, Sczerbaniewicz said participating in pageants these last 10 years has boosted her self-confidence, shown her the importance of sharing her voice publicly, and allowed her to start forming goals to achieve in the future.