OMAHA, Neb. — "When I wear my crown and walk across the stage, I feel empowered," said Alexa Ferreyra, Miss Teen Nebraska Latina.
Ferreyra is the first Miss Teen Nebraska Latina representing Peru in the Miss Teen U.S. Latina pageant. She says she has spent hours and hours of practice, stepping over obstacles and breaking down stereotypes of the Latin American community.
"At school I have honors. I am in the gifted program. This shows that when Latinas are given the opportunities they will thrive and achieve," added Ferreyra.
This platform has given her the opportunity to make a difference in her passion project, which is stopping animal abuse and increase pet adoptions.
"Puppy mill animals are severely abused animals. These facilities that they come from, they don't care about their mental and physical well-being. These animals are in a cage 24 hours and it is all about making money for them....never able to find homes after that," she said.
She currently has seven kittens and two dogs.
Her mom, Dawn Ferreyra added, "She has grown so much from her platform. She is looking at careers where she can help the environment and help animals and I am just so proud that she has found her passion so early so that she can really succeed in life."
An exciting part of the program is the cultural aspect.
"I just want to make my dad proud, he loves his culture and he has instilled that into me. The Peruvians in Nebraska are so proud of me, that I have this title and I am the first Peruvian. People just assume I am Mexican, when I say I am from Peru, they are like where is that?" explained Alexa.
Mom is there every step of the way, even giving advice to others looking to represent their heritage in pageants.
"Now, where diversity is both honored in the country and misunderstood, I think it is important for people to see all people represented in all aspects and have someone give back to their community, working hard both academically and serving others, it is important to see Latinas doing that kind of work," said Dawn.
Alexa says she has learned what true beauty actually looks like.
"I think what people stand for is what makes them beautiful. I stand for animals, that is my cause and I think it is really important for someone to believe in something," she said.
Crown or no crown, she says her hard work has already made her a winner.
"It's not only for me but for them to feel represented. It would just feel amazing. We represent a small portion of Latinas in America but, we are here. We are strong and we are united," Alexa said.
The national Miss Teen U.S. Latina Pageant takes place this Sunday, August 8 in Miami.