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It started with a prayer back in April. Vivian Rivera-Hernandez, president of the Spring Hill Domino Club, wanted to do something this year to make a difference. She prayed Matthew: 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

September was Hispanic Heritage Month, and Rivera-Hernandez wanted to get the Hispanic youth of Hernando County interested in their heritage, traditions, culture and values.

The club was planning to hold a celebration, but Rivera-Hernandez wanted to add a new feature - a pageant. Not a beauty pageant; she envisioned a heritage and cultural contest.

It would take a lot of work, and she would need help.

Her first call was to Migdalia Correa, who agreed to serve as pageant coach. Then Noemi De La Rosa, the club's vice president, after hearing the idea, said she was on board with it. Del La Rosa served as the contact person, answering questions and providing information to members and participants, and she also agreed to handle the table centerpieces.

The club's mission is to empower young Hispanic girls to achieve an education by mentorship and scholarships, and also to foster values, culture and traditions.

On Aug. 10, the club interviewed those wanting to be in the pageant, narrowing the list to five girls: Jessica Narvaez, Jeinid Vega, Elizabeth Croan, Basilisa Fuentes Hall and Amanda Bravo. A challenge was issued to the contestants: Research a Hispanic leader who positively influenced Hispanics today.

"I wanted the girls to hear one message: Don't ever lose who you are, and be proud of that," said Rivera-Hernandez.

"I researched Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor," said Fuentes Hall, the winner of the inaugural Miss Hispanic Queen of Hernando County.

She was awarded a $300 prize, sponsored by Good Faith Insurance Services. As the winner, her duties will include representing the club and the crown during annual Tampa and Brooksville holiday parades.

"I am honored and truly humbled to have been selected queen of Miss Hispanic Queen of Hernando County," she said. "I plan on representing my culture and the mission of the organization in the upcoming events and presentations to the best of my ability."

Fuentes Hall, 20, a nursing student at Pasco-Hernando Community College, lives in Brooksville with her parents, Maritza Fuentes and Bernon Hall. After graduation, she plans to specialize in neonatal care at the University of South Florida.

Rivera-Hernandez was pleased with how the event turned out.

"It was a blessed event," she said. "It became so much more, and not just for Latinos but the entire community. It gave us an opportunity to let our culture shine, show off our culture and unite us all through education."

The event raised $500 to benefit the club's scholarship fund. Scholarship applications will be distributed in January at local high schools. Graduating seniors with Hispanic heritage may apply. For information, call (352) 684-2720.

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