By Tonya Burton
Rachelle Kassebnia, 16, entered her first beauty pageant ever and finished with the first runner-up title along with a four-year scholarship and other prizes.
One of 60 contestants, Rachelle, daughter of Christine and Hassan Kassebnia of Carmel, decided only a few weeks before the pageant that she would like to enter.
“I am definitely – 100 percent – going back next year. It was one of the most positive experiences of my life,” Rachelle said.
The Miss Indiana Teen USA pageant, part of Miss Teen USA, encourages relationships and commitment to organizations devoted to education and action. And these goals are consistent with Rachelle’s passion for helping people.
She said she plans to study early childhood development in college, although as a junior in high school and newly crowned finalist, she still has her senior year to complete.
Rachelle also loves her part time job working with 3- to 5-year-old children at Hilltop Elementary School in Indianapolis.
“They make me laugh more than I can tell you. I just love them,” she said.
Another passion of Rachelle’s is to help plan and create programs to raise awareness about issues surrounding teen bullying.
“It happens a lot in schools,” she said.
Rachelle said she believes that educating teens and empowering individuals are keys to addressing the issue.
As someone who had faced the issue first hand, Rachelle said her participation in the pageant was huge boost, and she said she enjoyed the new experience, the educational opportunity and the camaraderie of a new circle of friends.
The Miss Indiana Teen USA pageant was conducted Nov. 3 at the Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel in Carmel.