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Last Saturday, Lauren Faria of Flower Mound participated in the state level of the Miss Texas Outstanding Teen pageant.

One summer ago, Faria stumbled across Caroline Carother's, Miss Texas 2017, Instagram post. She discovered there was a sister pageant under the Miss America umbrella and not only wanted to meet Carothers, but participate in her baton twirling clinic. Faria never held a baton, but considered the encounter life changing.

"Lauren was determined to meet Caroline and learn more about the Miss America program", said her mother, Ausa Faria. "I reminded her she'd never twirled or owned a baton. However, she felt the four points of the crown: scholarship, service, success and style, resonated with her."

Faria entered the Miss East Texas Outstanding Teen pageant in March 2017. It was her first year competing in pageants and walked away with the crown. She's had several women who’ve won a state and local title and coached Lauren through the interview process. In particular, Jana Robertson, former Miss New Mexico 1990, volunteered to coach Lauren several evenings leading up to the state pageant. The organization empowers women and encourages all to "pay it forward" through service.

Faria, an incoming sophomore, credits her interview coaching for landing the position of Flight Sergeant at Flower Mound High School’s Air Force JROTC program.

"Lauren has learned to answer questions on current events and form her own opinions at 14 years old," Ausa said. "This isn't a beauty pageant, but one that promotes service and scholarship. Lauren loves that she's able to showcase her dance talent and academic accolades."

To compete in local Miss Texas Outstanding Teen pageants, the girls aren't limited to pageants where they live, which is how Lauren became East Texas' Outstanding Teen. Ausa said that since then, Lauren participated in her second consecutive Career Day at her former middle school, Forestwood, and hosted a STEM activity for a Girl Scout troop, attended a STEM camp hosted by Texas Instruments, and was an ambassador for Special Olympics.

The Miss Texas Outstanding Teen Pageant is a “little sister” program to both the Miss Texas and Miss America Scholarship Organizations. It encourages positive achievement by helping to nurture and build the scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement. It rewards talent, communication skills, community service and academic achievement of girls between 13 and 17-years-old.

After Faria's fourth grade teacher, Beth Duke, sparked her interest in mathematics, Lauren grew to love math, science and technology. She earned straight A's throughout middle school and was inducted into National Junior Honor Society and is now taking Advanced Placement courses in high school. Faria is now on the Science, Technology, Engineering Math (STEM) route and has made "STEM for a Better World" her platform.

Faria has gone out to the community and has specifically targeted elementary and middle school aged kids towards a STEM career. Because Caroline promoted Miss Texas through Instagram, Faria feels she can use the power of social media to promote STEM. She has already partnered up with Texas Instruments and Girls Scouts and aspires to partner up with NASA to promote STEM. Faria, who is Portuguese and Filipino and a granddaughter of legal immigrants, values diversity, education and the "American Dream".

Follow Faria's year long journey on her official Facebook and Instagram pages, "Lauren Faria - Miss East Texas Outstanding Teen 2018".