Lil’ Mr. NTU Jace Platero and Lil’ Miss NTU Kelana Charley pose for a photo in their regal regalia after winning their titles. Jace’s clans are Ta’neeszahnii, Chíshí Dine’é, Naałani Dine’é, and Kinyaa’áanii. Kelana’s clans are Naaneesht’ézhí Táchii’nii, Naakaii Dine’é, Áshįįhí, and Ta’neeszahnii (Photo by Keanu Jones).
Published October 6, 2016
CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – It’s been over a month since Navajo Technical University’s Child Care Services crowned new royalty when Crownpoint-area locals Kelana Charley and Jace Platero were named Lil’ Miss and Lil’ Mr. NTU, and with their positions has come confidence.
NTU’s Lil’ Miss and Lil’ Mr. NTU Pageant occurred on September 7, 2016, and was honored to the theme of “Celebrating Diverse Cultures.” A total of seven children competed in the pageant showcasing their talents in song, dance, and demonstration.
NTU’s newest Lil’ Miss NTU earned her crown by introducing herself in Navajo, reading a book, identifying shapes, singing a song, and performing a Pow Wow jingle dance. While Kelana had competed in her first pageant months earlier for the Eastern Navajo Fair’s baby contest, her mother LaRhonda Cook-Charley was a little uncertain of the experience because of her daughter’s quiet demeanor.
“She’s really shy and quiet, but when the pageant came around I was like, ‘Wow,’” reflected Cook-Charley, who is currently studying in NTU’s Early Childhood Multicultural Education program. “She did great in front of the audience, and I was really impressed with her.”
Since the pageant Cook-Charley has noticed a change in Kelana and stated that she’s opening up her personality. “It’s really helped her in being comfortable with people,” explained Cook-Charley, who chaperoned Kelana with her husband Hubert Charley this past weekend at the Northern Navajo Fair parade in Shiprock, New Mexico.
In the contest for Lil’ Mr. NTU, Jace also introduced himself in Navajo and sang a song, but what really set him apart were his hockey demonstration skills he learned from his dad. As with Kelana, Jace’s parents were a little hesitant in entering him in the pageant, but more so for his vibrant personality.
“When I told his dad I wanted to enter him into the pageant, he was a little skeptical. He said, ‘You really think he’ll listen?’” laughed Jace’s mother Gwendolyn Castillo, who is majoring in NTU’s ACF-accredited Professional Baking program. “We entered him anyways.”
After scrambling for clothes and jewelry for Jace to wear during the pageant and practicing his introduction in Navajo and singing a song, Castillo stated that it all came together on stage when his personality shined bright. Although Jace chose to sing a Ghostbusters song over the traditional song his grandfather taught him, Castillo said everything worked out fine.
“He’s been the same kid as he was on stage,” added Jace’s father and NTU Pre Nursing major Joshua Platero. “He’s very enthusiastic and he’s loved. He’s friends with everyone he meets.”
As Lil’ Miss and Lil’ Mr. NTU, Charley and Platero will represent NTU’s Child Care Services at parades and other community events throughout the year. According to NTU Child Care Services Director Yvette Spencer, the experience helps in each child’s development.
“Cultural events and activities such as the Lil’ Miss and Lil’ Mr. NTU are very important so that children can gain confidence in themselves and take pride in their culture,” explained Spencer. “Children become aware of their cultural backgrounds and who they are, which are important aspects that need to be taught at an early age.”
“We’re helping build the foundation for their educational journey and becoming life-long learners,” continued Spencer.
For more information about Navajo Technical University’s Child Care Services or the Lil’ Miss and Lil’ Mr. NTU pageant, contact Yvette Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the NTU Child Care Services at 505.786.4198.