SLIDESHOW: Pageant brings out talented local youth

MILFORD — With gowns, tap shoes, batons and their best smiles, girls from Milford and the surrounding areas offered their best on stage Saturday night during the annual Miss Milford Scholarship Pageant.

Although there will be no Miss Milford this year due to a lack of entrants, other spots were chosen for the year including girls from 3-years-old all the way up to 17-years-old.

“Seeing both the teen contestants and the little miss contestants come together… it was very heartwarming,” former Miss Milford and current Miss Wilmington Rebecca Gasperetti said after the event.

Ms. Gasperetti joined Miss Delaware’s Outstanding Teen Ashley Swanson as the masters of ceremonies during the pageant, introducing each contestant and category.

Tiny Miss Milford Addisynn McKellop, three of Milford, was the first title holder announced for the evening.

“I’m excited for her,” mom Holly McKellop said. “I’m almost in tears. I try to teach her all the time to be herself. It’s not about winning. You never lose, you either win or learn.”

Addisynn offered an accapella version of “Skinnamarink” known from “The Elephant Show” hosted by Sharon, Lois and Bram.

Little Miss Milford Isla Warren performed a tap piece choreographed by her dance instructor Bliss Soucek to one of Meghan Trainor’s new songs, “Me Too.”

“I’m happy. Excited. And I’m really surprised. I didn’t feel like I was good enough at that moment. But then when they called me, I knew I was good enough,” she said.

Isla has danced since she was three-years-old, she confirmed with her mother Lindsey.

“I’m very excited for her, too. She has a lot of experience dancing on stage. She’s a natural,” Ms. Warren said of her daughter.

Mya Cherneski held onto her reign Saturday night as Junior Miss Milford for a fourth year. This year, however, was a little different for the Milford Central Academy student.

“The other three times, it was just me. I used to feel I couldn’t do it against someone else. Now, it was a bit more nerve wracking, but it felt more earned than other years,” she said.

Unlike younger contestants, Junior Miss Milford has a platform: Anti-bullying.

The platform, chosen by her, hits home for Mya as she deals with scoliosis, which is an extra curvature of the spine.

“It’s not much of a disability, but it’s there. It keeps me confident. And I’m medium set. When people underestimate you, it makes you work harder,” she said. “To me, it means what you’re doing is greater. If you’re playing softball, you’re defeating the odds.”

Mya does, in fact, play softball, even with scoliosis. She is also active in drama, the school choir and band, the Mispillion Choir and the Delaware Anti-Bullying Student Advisory Board, a statewide board made of up about 10 middle to high school students.

“We hope to get our message out more. We came up with a slogan: SOS, which stands for Standing Out and Speaking against bullying. I know I’m the youngest. It’s really great,” she said.

Next year, Mya hopes to earn Miss Milford’s Oustanding Teen title as she continues in the organization.

This year’s outstanding teen, Rebecca Bristow, comes to the organization from Bridgeville. She attends Sussex Central High School where she is active in cross country and other activities.

She competed against two other teens for the spot this year and stood above the others to both the judges and parents behind the scenes.

“She was very genuine. She was in the back playing and connecting with the girls. It just was really nice to see,” Ms. McKellop said.

Rebecca said she reached out to the younger girls because, “it’s important to instill that level of pageantry at a young age and make them feel important. It’s their day, too.”

Pageantry encompasses more than dresses and talents, she went on to say.

“It’s developing into the best version of yourself and offering community service,” she said. Rebecca’s platform, Feeding Strength, speaks to that thought as she encourages others to fight back against eating disorders, mental health problems and other needs.

“I had binge/purge-type anorexia, which means I had the characteristics of bulimia, but I was mostly starving myself. It was mostly a control thing. A lot of times, it became something I could manage,” she said of her platform and personal experience with eating disorders.

Through her platform, she works to connect other teens with resources necessary to help battle personal issues like she once encountered.

Rebecca, 17, takes international baccalaureate courses at her high school, which is “a step above AP.” She said she can take her high school diploma after graduation and go to college almost anywhere in the world thanks to common curriculums.

She plans to attend the University of Miami as a biology major. She said she eventually wants to become a reconstructive plastic surgeon.


Jennifer Antonik can be reached at

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