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Pageant contestant takes up cause of diversity

Rachel Salvador

Rachel Salvador

April 29, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

As she was growing up, pageant contestant Rachel Salvador said other children could not help but notice she looked different.

Sometimes they even wondered if she spoke English.

This year's first runner-up in the Miss Washington County scholarship pageant, Salvador has Cuban and Puerto Rican roots, and said she sometimes speaks "Spanglish" at home.

In pageant circles, she talks the language of diversity.

"My parents always taught us to walk with your head high. Don't be ashamed because God made us all different. I think of it more as a blessing than a curse," said Salvador, who wants the City of Hagerstown to promote events that showcase the area's diversity.

In her second year competing for Miss Washington County, Salvador, 23, said she has become passionate about advocating diversity.

She said she believes if a tour of area bars can attract hundreds of people, as one did on St. Patrick's Day in Hagerstown, so can festivals featuring the food and traditions of different cultures.

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Learning about other people - even people who promote hate - is the only way to create understanding and build respect, said Salvador, a paralegal and full-time sociology student at Frostburg State University's Hagerstown campus.

Salvador said she has even talked the idea over with business people she met while working at a local bank, where she learned about other cultures from her customers.

A 2002 Williamsport High School graduate, Salvador said she eventually would like to pursue a career working with the victims of crime, especially domestic violence.

"I'm one of those people, I hate it when bad things happen, but I'd like to help those people who have had bad things happen to them," Salvador said.

As a pageant contestant, Salvador said, she has experienced the ways some people's stereotypes cloud their perspectives.

The Miss America competition is more than just pretty young women in swimsuits and heels, Salvador said.

"The Miss America organization is so much more than just a beauty pageant. They actually challenge you intellectually, and they challenge you as a person with the community service (requirement)," Salvador said.

The contestants become like family, said Salvador, who counts younger sister, Barbie, among her biggest fans.

Backstage, the contestants might be wearing hooded sweat shirts and helping each other with makeup, but when the lights go up on stage, Salvador said, they are all business.

"We can hold smiles for hours," Salvador said.

Although she admitted that she took her looks and dress seriously as a teenager in school, Salvador said she always believed winning respect meant showing it as well.

Her philosophy, she said, can be found on a wall near Burhans Boulevard, where a graffiti artist wrote a message reminding passers-by to be colorblind.

"Spreading tolerance is one of the best things that we can do. That's why I love that sign someone painted on that bridge because it's true that we have to teach our kids to be colorblind," Salvador said.




Q&A



Name: Rachel Salvador

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: Student at Frostburg State University's Hagerstown campus, paralegal at Salzman Hughes in Chambersburg, Pa.

What was your proudest moment?: "Honestly, right now, it was probably ... being first runner-up Miss Washington County because this year I was able to share something I truly believe in."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "It would probably have to be from my mom and that would be never be ashamed of who you are, always hold your head high and be proud of where you came from."

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: "I'd really, really like to see some impact on cultural diversity in Hagerstown by hopefully having cultural events." Her other goals include getting good grades and graduating in December.

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