The Cal State Experience


Cal State 2015

     Members of the All-Star Team at the 2015 California State Youth Accolades.

I remember on my drive up to San Jose for the California State Youth Accolades scholarship competition, I had this deep, nervous, knot in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was slightly worried about the long week ahead of me. What were the people going to be like? What kind of activities would I be doing? From what I had heard, this upcoming week was supposed to be life-changing, and I was determined to make the most of whatever lie ahead, but I couldn’t shake that knot in my stomach. As I stepped into the hotel lobby to begin my Cal State week, I was immediately greeted with warm embraces and bright smiles from complete strangers. That nervous feeling was completely wiped out. I soon came to expect a big hug and words of love every time I met someone involved with Youth Focus and Cal State.

That’s the Cal State experience — that warm embrace. It’s a team that works to support every member. As the week went on I began to develop friendships with the other members of the Cal State family that were supportive, genuine, and incredibly fun. When I think of my Cal State week I remember random lip sync battles, I remember public speaking workshops with Melissa Wackerman, and I remember leadership exercises with Kristina Stamper. I remember eating ice cream sundaes with my Cal State team and helping each other with Stage Arts and Community Advocacy Speeches. I remember the encouragement that flowed through our planning sessions as we, the Cal State All-Star Team, rose together and strived to bring good to the communities around us. The sheer amount of intelligence, compassion, talent, and leadership that I experienced in that short amount of time is astounding. I remember this and all the endless skills and support that I was blessed with, but it didn’t end there.

The sheer amount of intelligence, compassion, talent, and leadership that I experienced in that short amount of time is astounding.

I’m honored to serve as Miss California State, but I am not alone. I am constantly inspired by those around me. My wonderful partner Lorenzo Rangel-Santos, California State Ambassador 2015, is amazingly talented, with a big heart and a desire to serve others. He is constantly inspiring me to be more involved in the community and to not be afraid of taking greater risks. California State Junior Ambassadress Lauren Newell always puts a smile on the faces of the people around her, and loves working hard to support Youth Focus and her community. She inspires me to bring a greater amount of energy to all the tasks that I do. Those are only a couple of examples of the amazing individuals I am lucky to work with as part of the Cal State team.

During my time involved with Cal State and Youth Focus, I’ve had the opportunity to meet amazing individuals, and the opportunity to represent a program of inspiring youth leaders that endeavor to create a better California. I’ve gained amazing public relations and team-building skills, and have expanded my definition of what it truly means to be a Californian. I gained the confidence and the skills necessary to make change as both a leader and a member of a team. A lot of people ask me what it’s like to wear a crown and a sash, as if I won a beauty pageant, and if the competition was mean. My Cal State experience is none of those things, it’s a beautiful collage of youth leaders, organizers, and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.

Learn more about the California State Youth Accolades Scholarship Competition and how you can enter in one of three age divisions: Junior (ages 9-12), Teen (ages 13-16), and Upper Division (ages 17-24). The program will award more than $30,000 in scholarships this year July 18-23.

Elaina Provencio


Elaina Provencio, Miss California State 2015

Elaina is a journalism student at UC Berkley and is currently expanding her horizons through a study abroad program in London. She has been a staff news reporter for The Daily Californian, and a board member and team captain for UC Berkeley’s Relay for Life/Colleges against Cancer Club — her leadership with the Relay for Life has been instrumental in events that have raised more than $25,000 for the American Cancer Society.