Carmel Mountain Ranch teen named ‘Distinguished Young Woman of California’
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Miss Rancho Bernardo Teen 2012 Ling Zeng has a new title to add to her résumé.
The 17-year-old was named Distinguished Young Woman of California at the July 28 finals in Bakersfield, Calif. Her prizes include $18,500 in scholarships. She will travel to Mobile, Ala., next June to compete for the 2013 national title.
The scholarship contest for high school girls was previously known as America’s Junior Miss. In its 55-year existence more than $108 million in cash and college scholarships has been awarded through various levels of competition.
Zeng is the daughter of Carmel Mountain Ranch residents Fu-Yue Zeng and Bing Xia. She is an incoming senior at Rancho Bernardo High, where she has been in Science Olympiad, peer counseling, National Honor Society, track and field, Academic League, American Chinese Culture and Education Foundation, DECA and volunteering. Her hobbies are swimming, playing piano and Chinese lute, ice skating and dancing.
She is a newcomer to these types of competitions. Her first was the Miss Rancho Bernardo Teen pageant in March, where she became eligible for a $1,000 scholarship and received $125 for having the highest GPA. A month later she entered the local Distinguished Young Woman contest and was one of five finalists. They were not told how they placed and all advanced to the state competition, she said.
Zeng said she learned about the Distinguished Young Woman program when looking for scholarship opportunities listed on RB High’s website.
The local competition was “imitating” but “rewarding,” Zeng said. Unlike the Miss RB Teen pageant, this one had a talent component and she had to attend rehearsals to learn a group dance number for the fitness component.
In San Diego she chose to play the Chinese lute in order to challenge herself and be unique and among the 25 contestants, she said. It is an instrument she began studying a year ago to connect with her heritage. At the state contest she opted to go with her strength, the piano, which she has played for 12 years. She performed a 90-second section of Chopin’s “Fantasy Impromptu.”
There were 33 contestants vying for the state title. They were judged on scholastics (20 percent), interview (25 percent), fitness (15 percent), self-expression (15 percent) and talent (25 percent).
Zeng said the program has been “amazing,” “life changing” and is not a typical pageant. Though she does not know all the details, Zeng said she will make some appearances during the coming year that include presentations on “Be Your Best Self,” DYW’s national outreach message.
As for her future goals, Zeng said she wants to attend a four-year university — perhaps Stanford or Wellesley — and then graduate school to study business, economics or law.
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