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Diana Harris is crowned Maricopa’s Outstanding Teen on Sept. 28.

MARICOPA — Just a month ago, Diana Harris never could have imagined that she would one day be crowned Miss City of Maricopa’s Outstanding Teen. That’s because at that point, she had never competed for any title like that.

The competition on Sept. 28 was the first time the 15-year-old Maricopa High School freshman had ever competed. But she brought something different to the competition, as the only one to perform jazz dance.

She had started that kind of dance at age 3, so it was nothing new to her.

“It’s a very interesting way of expressing my emotions. I love performing. It’s something I really enjoyed doing,” Harris told PinalCentral. “I’ve been doing it with my sisters, so it’s something that’s really close to my heart.”

It was actually through dance that Harris got into the competition in the first place. Her teacher at Desert Sun Performing Arts Center, Ceylan Gentilella, encouraged her to join because she thought Harris would be good at it. Harris’s parents agreed and encouraged her, and that’s how she wound up on that stage.

“It was such a new feeling,” Harris said. “But as I went through, I felt the adrenaline and a new sense of confidence I’ve never had before.”

As Miss Outstanding Teen, Harris will be adopting a cause that she will promote throughout the next year. She has chosen the mission of “Vision for Your Future: Post-Secondary Education for Young, Minority Women.”

It’s something that hits close to home. Harris’s mother — an immigrant from Ecuador who moved to the United States when she was 5 — was often discouraged from attending college but went anyway.

Now Harris is seeing a lot of that discouragement for girls she’s going to school with and wants to make sure they see their full potential.

“I’m hoping to really spread my wings in the community and spread awareness of my social impact,” Harris said. “I’m also hoping to make more people aware of the importance of education.”

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