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by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Rebecca Anderson

It's that time of year in Seaside when a bevy of beauties descends upon the city to compete for Miss Oregon. Two young women from Clackamas County will be among them: Rebecca Anderson, 20, a 2009 graduate of Oregon City High School, and Marissa Huddleston, 20, who graduated from Gladstone High School in 2008.


Preliminary events took place this week, and the winner of the Miss Oregon 2011 Scholarship pageant will be crowned on Saturday night, July 2.

Rebecca Anderson - Miss Cascade

Miss Cascade is an open title, and any young woman in the state can compete for it, Anderson said, noting that she was one of 16 contestants.

Although she said she has always been a performer, this is Anderson's first experience with pageants.

'I wanted to wait until I was responsible enough, capable enough to be a title holder - it's a big job,' she said.

In high school, Anderson was on the dance team for two years and in the drama department for four years. For her talent presentation, she will sing 'Feeling Good,' from the Broadway musical 'Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd,' but she added that most people have heard Jennifer Hudson sing the song as part of a commercial for Weight Watchers.

All contestants must choose a current issue that then becomes their 'platform.' Anderson's platform is environmental sustainability education for a greener world, which dovetails with both her major of environmental studies at Portland State University and her volunteer work with elementary schools in Oregon City.

'If you want to instill good habits, you have to start young. If you don't teach a 5 year old to recycle, they'll never learn,' Anderson said, adding that she has established recycling programs at Holcomb and Mt. Pleasant elementary schools and is a member of the Green Team at King Elementary School.

Future plans may include going to law school to become an environmental lawyer.

For her, Miss America is an 'iconic figure and a role model; she represents service, scholarship, style and success.'

She added, 'As Miss America, I can put forth my message on environmental sustainability and give back to the community that has supported me. The scholarship money is just the cherry on top.'

Marissa Huddleston - Miss Washington County

Because Huddleston, still a Gladstone resident, volunteers extensively in Washington County, she chose to run for that title. She has participated in pageants before and was named Multnomah County's Outstanding Teen in July 2007.

As for her platform, Team in Training! The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, she noted that she didn't choose her issue, it chose her.

'Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia. I was a senior in high school, and had just finished competing in my first Miss America system pageant. Needless to say, my world was turned upside down. Rather than preparing for a pageant that summer, I spent my time preparing for the bone marrow transplant and intensive chemotherapy I was going to need to survive,' Huddleston said.

At the same time, one of her best friends was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma for the third time, and the two young women helped each other through the experience of their treatments. One of the things they promised each other was to run a marathon when their cancers were gone.

'Unfortunately, Ashley passed away last April, leaving quite a legacy, but also some dreams unfinished. So I saw it fitting to get involved with Team in Training, as all of the money raised goes to fund leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research specifically,' she said, adding, 'Advocating for cancer research and patients has been, is, and forever will be a platform near and dear to my heart.'

Huddleston is currently a mentor for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program, where she has the opportunity to combat cancer through physical exercise and fundraising, and also recruits and encourages new teammates to do just that. She has spoken at kick-off events or recruitment parties, worked as a recruiter at running expos, worked aid stations during fun runs and helped prepare her 'mentees' for their marathon coming up in October. She has also worked with Washington County's Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life teams, food bank and put on a Washington County Locks of Love event.

Even Huddleston's talent presentation ties into her platform theme.

'I will be dancing a contemporary routine to Coldplay's 'Fix You.' The dance is supposed to tell a story about the addictions, broken relationships, identity crises and illnesses that plague our lives, and my hope is to that it will convey a message of hope and potentially bring some form of healing to my audience,' she said.

Huddleston said she has always wanted to be Miss America and used to think all the title holder did was wear a pretty dress and a crown, but now that she understands the program better, she knows that Miss America is a job.

She added, 'The job of Miss America is one that involves advocating for my personal platform, as well as the national platform, the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, both of which have made a tremendous impact on my life. Miss America is a hostess to the nation, as she travels 20,000 miles a month across the USA, speaks to the public about important issues and, ultimately, loves and relates with people.'

For more information about the Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant, visit http://www.missoregon.org/.

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