Miss California will be crowned at Fresno's Saroyan Theatre

FRESNO, Calif.

The contestants say all the hard work is worth it. Especially when the top prize is thousands in scholarship money.

These 59 young women have already won a pageant in their own cities and counties. And between them they've already won $250 thousand in scholarship money. But this week they're going for the big prize. A shot at Miss America as Miss California and a $100 thousand prize.

24 year old Valerie Salcedo represents Miss Fresno County. This is her first pageant. In fact she hadn't even heard about the competition until the power went out last year on the Fresno State campus.

Valerie Salcedo said, "We got an email saying all the events were cancelled - meetings - different events - including a pageant. That's where I found out about the pageant, looked it up on the internet, noticed they had a talent competition and wanted to jump on the performance opportunity right away."

Salcedo majored in music at Fresno State and wants to do her graduate work at Julliard or the Manhattan School of Music. Scholarship money would help her reach that goal.

While Salcedo is one of the older contestants in the pageant... Jasmine Johnson is one of the youngest. Miss Inglewood is 19, but tried out last year at the age of 18. It was a way to move beyond her roots in a low income neighborhood.

Johnson said, "One thing that I really wanted to do was to inspire other people in my environment and back at home to want to do the same."

Johnson is majoring in media studies and social cultural anthropology on a full ride scholarship at U.C. Berkeley. Her dream is to be a reporter for the Travel Channel. That dream may not be too far beyond her reach.

The talent portion of Miss California begins Tuesday night. Jasmine will sing Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" while Valerie Salcedo will perform a number from "La Boheme."

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