San Bernardino High’s 17th Annual Mr. and Miss Cardinal City Pageant crowns new court

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Photo Ricardo Tomboc:  The combined Mr. and Miss Cardinal Pageant took place at the Sturges Center for the Fine Arts on Ssaturday, Sept. 25. Pictured from left: Ashley Torres, Trinity Ortega, Laura Galindo, Kylee Bravo, Carmel Gonzales, Miss Cardinal Jamie Villalobos, Mr. Cardinal Abdel Hussein, Saul Felix.

Poise, grace, and sophistication took center stage on Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Sturges Center for the Fine Arts when 17 San Bernardino High School contestants competed in the first-ever combined 17th Annual Mr. and Miss Cardinal City Pageant. Seniors Abdel Hussein and Jamie Villalobos were crowned 2021 Mr. and Miss Cardinal, respectively.

“I look forward to going to a lot of events, meeting new people, getting more involved in the community, and being a role model,” said Hussein, who’s enrolled in AP/honors classes and maintains a remarkable 4.5 GPA. For him, the most impactful part of the competition was the feeling of unity among students when winners were announced.

“Everyone was happy for each other, everybody felt good about it,” Hussein noted.

Photo Ricardo Tomboc:  Mr. Cardinal Abdel Hussein (second from left) and his court (from left) Saul Felix, Ivan Cruz, and Carmel Gonzales.

Villalobos looks forward to getting in touch with the community and seeing what she can do to help people get involved with community service and being a role model for younger generations.

“I’m proud of myself for sticking to the program and getting involved in the community,” Villalobos shared. “Seeing multiple people still have hope in clearing the name of San Bernardino and making it a beautiful place for us,” was the significant takeaway of the experience for her.

Filling out Mr. Cardinal City’s court are first runner-up Carmel Gonzales and second runner-up Saul Felix.

Miss Cardinal City’s court includes first runner-up Kylee Bravo and second runner-up Laura Galindo. Miss International Beauty 2021 Trinity Ortega and Teen International Beauty 2021 Ashley Torrez were also crowned Saturday night and will be part of the Miss Cardinal City court.

Photo Ricardo Tomboc: One of the dynamic performances the contestants showcased.

The pageant also included several special presentations. Ivan Cruz, an SBHS Class of 2021 graduate, was named Mr. Cardinal City 2020–2021.

Mr. and Miss Cardinal City and their Courts will represent Cardinal City, which is an official chartered city that encompasses the SBHS campus and all of its current students and staff, at various in-person and virtual functions.

Historically the pageants are held separately, but due to COVID-19 it was determined a combined event would be prudent, incorporating numerous layers of COVID safety precautions that included limited capacity, face coverings for all in attendance, sanitation stations, industrial-sized HEPA-grade air filter, and social distancing between groups.

“Normally, we have 15 to 20 San Bernardino High School students competing in each pageant, but we limited the total number of contestants to help maintain social distancing both among the contestants and the audience,” Cardinal Pageant Director and SBHS Bilingual School Outreach Worker Jaime Rios noted.

Photo Ricardo Tomboc: Athena Fleming and Lana Henry announcing the winner.

The pageant was limited to 250 audience members when in the past the 700-seat auditorium would be brimming with attendees.

“I’m grateful I had 250 people who came and supported the program and an esteemed panel of 10 judges none of whom are local,” Rios said. They hailed from Orange County, Carlsbad, and Oceanside, to name a few. “It’s amazing that people in other cities came all this way to support this program, that says a lot about our program.”

Contestants were required to wear face coverings unless performing alone on stage, an aspect Rios felt was unfortunate as it prevented the audience from seeing contestants’ full expressions.

Photo Ricardo Tomboc: Backstage bustle.

“It was somewhat challenging, but we made hope happen for sure for these kids,” Rios remarked. “Imagine these are teenagers not being able to go anywhere (during the COVID shutdown), and now they get to be in front of a crowd of 250 people. It was a lot of work amid all these restrictions imposed on me, but in the end, we have winners.”

17 years later Rios continues with this program that brings him so much gratification. Why does he do it? Simple – “the kids.”

“Every year it brings so much joy to me to see these kids that come from an inner-city that we can showcase the best of them – great GPAs, great personalities, their motivation to do big and better things,” Rios reflected. “These are our future leaders, one day they will be city council members, mayors, doctors… the possibilities are endless.”