Between contestant and volunteer fundraising efforts, close to $15,000 was raised for student scholarships during the 2019 DIVA Association of Kingsville Scholarship Pageant.

Now in its 11th year, the 2019 pageant featured nine male and female contestants taking the stage of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s Jones Auditorium on Saturday.

“I think it went pretty well, but this was our toughest year,” pageant organizer Rev. Idotha Battle said. “We had people coming in and out, in sickness and everything, which brought our (number of) contestants down, but everybody pulled together in the end.”

Founded in 2008, the annual DIVA, or Divinely Inspired Virtuous Angels, pageant is a showcase event highlighting the fundraising efforts of women, and now men as well, for scholarships that support local youth, regardless of academic standing, as they prepare for higher education.

To date, the organization has awarded 164 scholarships, with 19 given out during this year’s pageant.

The DIVA pageant is unique from other pageants in that while contestants participate and compete in self-expression, talent and evening wear categories, the overall winners are selected by the amount of scholarship funds they were able to raise.

“Because that’s what it’s all about,” Battle said. “Helping the students.”

Last year, in commemoration of its 10th anniversary, the DIVA association of Kingsville introduced male divisions — the DEVOs.

Divisions for the pageant are Miss DIVA/Mr. DEVO (18 years and older), Junior Miss DIVA/Mr. DEVO (9-17 years) and Princess DIVA/Prince DEVO (6-8 years). Not all divisions had participants this year.

This year’s Ms. DIVA was Rachel Pena, who raised $2,005 for the organization. Pena also received an award in the evening wear category.

This was Pena’s third year participating in the DIVA pageant, and she said she plans to keep raising scholarship money for the organization.

“It’s all about the kids and raising money for them,” she said. “And I’m not going to stop. We get it to give it.”

The first runner-up for Ms. DIVA was Tonya Wallace, who also received the Judges’ Award, along with awards in the self-expression and talent categories.

The Mr. DEVO crown went to Julius Hunter, who raised $1,526 for the organization. Hunter also received an award for self-expression.

The Mr. DEVO first runner-up was Dion Ward, who also won the Judges’ Award and an award for talent, while Charles Shelton was the second runner-up and won the evening wear category.

In the Junior Miss DIVA division, Ta-Khya Holliday took the crown, raising $3,047 for the organization. Holliday also received awards for self-expression, talent and evening wear. The first runner-up, Barbie Pineda Garcia, won the Judges’ Award.

The Junior Mr. DEVO was Adam Shipman, who raised $905, and Malik Shelton was crowned the winner in the Prince DEVO division, raising $845 for the organization.

The DIVA Award of Excellence, recognizing outstanding service to the community, was presented to Kingsville Police Department Cpl. Daniel Gonzales and Cpt. Vincent Murray, and DIVA Pageant Head Judge Bette Gaddis was named the 2019 Honorary DIVA.

Scholarship recipients for this year’s pageant were Aleyah Barbour, Katrina Berrera, Hanna Borden, Gabriella Breitenfeld, Luis Briseno, Michael Cerda, McKenzie Davila, Mckahla De La Rosa, Edgar Diaz, Nadyne Hernandez, Kendall Huff, Jose Jacquez, Angel Jimenez, Makayla Johnson, London Lemcke, Joshua Macareno, Mariah Mercado, Michalee Newton and Trinity Solis.

Serving as the Master of Ceremony for the pageant was Carlos Ramirez. Ramirez is co-owner of Fit 24 Gym in Kingsville and has also won several bodybuilding awards.

The 2015 Junior Miss DIVA Angel Jimenez performed the National Anthem at the start of the pageant, and scholarship recipient Luis Briseno gave a special guest vocal performance in appreciation to the DIVA organization.

“Thank you so much,” Briseno said prior to his performance. “It means a lot that you gave us these scholarships that we earned, and I’m pretty sure that we all promise that it’s not going to go to waste. We’re going to work hard.”

After the pageant, Battle said they will start early with their fundraising toward next year’s pageant. She said her goal is to raise $20,000 for student scholarships in 2020.

“All we need is the support,” Battle said.

For more information on the DIVA Association of Kingsville and the Ms. DIVA Scholarship Pageant, visit kingsvillediva-association.org.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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