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Celi Dean and Elee Vang.

Celi Dean (left) and Elee Vang.

U students fare well in state pageants

By Rick Moore

Published on July 9, 2004

Two University of Minnesota students are representing their communities this year as pageant winners. Elee Vang, a student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is the reigning Miss Deaf Minnesota for 2003-2005, and Celi Dean, a student on the Twin Cities campus, has been chosen the 2004 Miss Teen Minnesota International. Both are competing in national pageants this month.

Vang is a sophomore from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, who is studying to be an audiologist and is enrolled in UMD's Communication Science and Disorders program. One of her philosophies has become the basis of a saying: "Deaf itself is a gift from God, not a disability that you can't fix."

Vang is currently in Kansas City, Missouri, to compete in the Miss Deaf America Pageant (MDAP) on July 9. The MDAP is in its 38th year and offers women between the ages of 18-28 the chance to become a goodwill ambassador and spokeswoman of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). The MDAP takes place during biennial NAD conferences, and the women are judged across a broad spectrum of categories including community service, academics, current events, and knowledge of deaf culture.

Dean, a General College sophomore from Minneapolis, was named the 2004 Miss Teen Minnesota International in March and will also compete in the national Miss Teen International pageant in Chicago July 30-31. As part of her prize, she was awarded a scholarship of up to $18,000 and will have her expenses paid for the trip to Chicago.

"I've been pretty busy so far, just doing interviews and getting ready for the national pageant," she says. "I've been making a lot of connections and networking."

The title also offers Dean a chance to advance her pageant platform: the importance of getting a college education. The platform, she says, is meant to be a subject or area of interest to promote because, as a pageant winner, "it gives you an extra voice--a louder voice." Dean's platform is especially pertinent and heartfelt; she is the seventh of 11 children in her family and the first to attend college. She has been involved extensively at the YMCA, currently volunteers with a group of teen girls, and has already been on the Dean's List at the U.

In addition to the Miss Teen Minnesota International crown, Dean has been appointed to represent Minnesota in the 2005 Miss Black USA Pageant in Atlanta next February.