By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Deaf teen earns pageant title

Photo courtesy of Alice Rash Montana Murphy, second from left, was second runner-up in the Mr./Miss Deaf Teen American Pageant.

Ventura County Star

As one of five deaf children in her family, 14-year-old Montana Murphy has always wanted to be a leader and role model — especially for her younger sister and brother.

The Simi Valley teen came a step closer to her goal with her recent placement as second runner-up at the Mr./Miss Deaf Teen America Pageant in Washington, D.C.

Hosted earlier this season by the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, the coed pageant drew contestants from across the country, who were interviewed individually but scored as a team in six categories: private interviews, platform presentation, formal wear, state spirit, talent and onstage interviews.

The pageant was co-founded in 1999 by Roberta Gage and Carol Nemecek with the support of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf's student life office.

They transformed the pageant from a dream into a reality by establishing a student-led pageant for deaf young people.

"The pageant's goal is to promote young deaf emerging leaders, leading to a stronger deaf community," said Montana, who was born deaf as a result of having two recessive genes. For the same reason, all her siblings are deaf.

She is a freshman at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, a residential school operated by the state Department of Education. The school serves 500 students from 11 counties in Southern California.

Montana has three sisters and one brother: Melinda, 18, a senior at CSDR who will attend CSU Northridge in the fall; Megan, 16, a junior at CSDR; Miranda, 11, a fifth-grader at Simi Valley Elementary School who will attend CSDR in the fall; and Mack, 8, a third-grader at Simi Elementary.

At this year's pageant, Montana competed against students from nine schools for the deaf. The annual event is designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing teens, ages 13 to 19, from deaf organizations, deaf and hard-of-hearing programs, and schools for the deaf.

"Each school for the deaf or organization for the deaf and hard of hearing must have both male and female contestants competing together as a team," Montana explained.

There were nine teams, and each performed together in every category except the private and onstage interviews.

"The vital concepts of the pageant are developing teamwork, leadership qualities, self-esteem, social skills and an increased understanding of diversity," Montana said. "I also met many friends. It's one of my best memories."

Montana won second runner-up along with her classmate Sean Berdy, said teacher Alice Rash.

After she graduates from high school, Montana wants to attend either CSU Northridge or Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., a college known as a world leader for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher," Montana said.

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