Ambrosia Lobo had watched the Miss America pageant with her mother for years and never realized she, too, could be a contestant.
“I was always in awe of the beautiful young women who appeared on my TV,” said Lobo, who as Miss San Joaquín County will be among the 41 hopefuls for the Miss California Pageant at the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno starting tonight (June 26).
“It wasn’t until last year when I heard the women introduce themselves as honors graduates and motivators that I was able to picture myself up there with them.”
The 24-year-old Lobo, who recently wrapped up her second year of teaching third-graders at River Island Technology Academy in Lathrop, took the plunge. She learned about the organization’s focus on scholarship, service and “most importantly, inner beauty.”
“It occurred to me that the women of the Miss America Organization were not an unattainable image of perfection, but instead they were ME!” said Lobo. “They represented my values, drive and commitment to empower other women.”
The Modesto resident qualified to compete in the Miss San Joaquín pageant because there wasn’t one in the Modesto area.
“I just wanted to check it off my bucket list,” said Lobo. “Now, I feel that every moment in my life has led me here to be a titleholder.”
Lobo has discovered the pageant life is much more than putting on an elegant evening gown or singing on stage.
“It’s extremely eye-opening,” she said. “Even I’m guilty of having stereotypes of what the pageant is, how much work goes into it, and all the phenomenal women.
“It’s been really cool as a titleholder.”
Lobo is a big believer in education, and has made ‘Equitable Education’ her social impact initiative.
She graduated with a master’s degree a year ago from the University of San Francisco, where she earned a bachelor’s in sociology in 2017.
Lobo originally wanted to become a wedding planner and work in hospitality until she visited West Virginia while working on her college degree and saw the impact that a lack of education had on extreme poverty.
“I just became passionate about education because I saw the end goal,” said Lobo, whose younger sister attends UC Davis and plans on going to medical school.
Her mother, Mónica Lobo, works two jobs: Para-proffesional during the day, Target guest services at night. Her father, Jon Lobo, was a civil engineer who died of a heart attack the summer before her senior year in high school.
During her first year of teaching at a Modesto school, Lobo met a young boy who “had experienced the unimaginable.”
He had no access to a school counselor, and his interest in the arts floundered at a school that didn’t emphasize it.
“As a teacher I did the best that I could,” said Lobo, who would play basketball with him during recess.
Lobo left the school.
“If I had stayed there beyond one year I would have burned out within a year,” she said. “I had to go and move to a different school.”
She is happy with her current school, but hopes to gain enough experience and return to schools like her first one and make a difference.
“Every single child needs to have access to a quality education,” said Lobo. “Our education system really does need to approach its funding and resources from an equitable point. Schools are not doing that.”
Lobo uses theater for her “happy place.” She took part in four musicals this past year She has been in musical theater productions since the third grade.
Meet Miss San Joaquín County Ambrosia Lobo
Born: San José
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of San Francisco. Graduated from Modesto High School.
Family: Mother, Mónica; sister Julia.
Talent: Vocal, ‘This is the Moment’ from Jekyl and Hyde.
Social impact initiative: Equitable education
Interesting facts: Has dinner at the same place every Tuesday; has traveled to six countries; calls 2018 her “year of the villain.”
Pageant schedule: Wednesday interview, onstage interview and evening wear; Thursday talent