Two days after the Miss Douglas County Pageant on Saturday, Gardnerville resident Alisa Merino was still in shock.
Merino, 22, was crowned Miss Douglas County, and 13-year-old Carli Gumm won Miss Douglas County Outstanding Teen.
“It was a dream come true,” Merino said on Monday. “Thinking about it now, it’s surreal. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Merino, a 2009 DHS graduate, came in second runner up in 2010 and first runner up in 2011 before volunteering backstage at the pageant the last two years.
“This is something I have wanted for four years, and now that it’s in my hands I need to move forward with it,” she said. “I’m here to make a change. I’m excited about this next year.”
She sees her title as a great opportunity to promote her platform of suicide prevention.
“I was friends with Austin Kirby who killed himself at age 14,” she said. “Ever since then my life has changed. I want to make a difference in Douglas County.”
Merino said she plans to partner with the Austin Kirby Foundation and the Suicide Prevention Network of Douglas County.
“I want to help promote them, in a way that they really haven’t by using social media,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to expand Austin’s House statewide.”
Merino competed against six other ladies for the title.
“This year was definitely a challenge. The young ladies were all so talented,” she said. “The hardest part was the on-stage question. You’re put on the spot and you have to answer in front of a lot of people. It’s the most nerve-wracking part of the pageant.”
Merino was equally excited to have Carli as her outstanding teen sister.
“Carli is my sweetheart. We’ve been dancing together for seven years now,” she said. “The Gumms are so close to my heart. (Carli’s older sister Bailey crowned Merino on Saturday.) When I knew she was going to be my teen, I was ecstatic. I knew this year was going to be amazing.”
For Carli, being a Miss Douglas County titleholder runs in the family.
Older sister, Bailey, held the title in 2010, and went on to be Miss Douglas County 2013.
“She kept me motivated and encouraged me to compete. She was so proud when I won. I think she cried more than I did,” Carli said. “I was so excited. It was something I wanted really bad, and worked so hard to accomplish.”
Wanting to be a biomedical engineer someday, Carli chose science, technology, engineering and math education for girls as her platform.
“I’m very passionate about math and science,” the Carson Valley Middle School eighth grader said. “I want to encourage other girls to pursue careers in STEM fields because there is so much opportunity.”
Carli said she plans to tutor other students who are falling behind in science and math, and she’s working with the local Girl Scout troop on holding a STEM activity day in the future.
She is also a student representative on the science curriculum committee for the Douglas County School District.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” she said.
A highlight of the pageant for Carli was the talent portion where she did a musical theater dance to the song “Move” from Dream Girls.
“I love to dance. I’ve always loved to dance, but my favorite part was being with all the girls,” she said. “They were all so sweet.”
Merino and Carli will compete for their Miss Nevada respective titles May 31-June 1 in Las Vegas.