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Local teen revels in opportunity to represent city as Miss New Westminster

Makena Thomas and Team Tiara attending today's Parading in Place Drive-By Parade

Makena Thomas is looking forward to representing her hometown as Miss New Westminster 2021 – and maybe even attending some parades along the way.

Makena was installed as Miss New Westminster 2021 on May 15. The Grade 11 student at New Westminster Secondary School said she was inspired to participate in the program to follow in the footsteps of her mom, Kim Thomas, who was Miss New Westminster 1992, and her grandparents, who have been active in the New Westminster community.

“I feel like it’s kind of been passed down to me a little bit, in a way,” she said. “I’m really excited to be able to represent our city.”

Members of Team Tiara and Miss New Westminster normally attend parades across the Pacific Northwest with Hyack officials and the city’s float.

“With COVID, obviously, it’s all still kind of up in the air,” Makena said. “I am really excited to do a little bit of travelling, maybe some float action if that’s possible – some floats and some parades.”

Even though she was only recently named Miss New Westminster, Makena said she’s already benefited from the program. The six young women taking part in this year’s program have been meeting weekly (virtually) for months, learning to write and present speeches, and volunteering at events like the Glenbrook Ravine restoration project and the Don’t Go Hungry food program at St. Aidan’s Church.

“I didn’t really do any kind of volunteering at all, so this has totally introduced me to it. It’s given me a way to really be involved,” she said. “I really enjoy being able to help people.”

In addition to being awarded the top title Hyack Festival Association Scholarship of $5,000 for being named Miss New Westminster, Makena also received the Knowledge Award, the Top Communicator Award and the Top Talent Award, and was voted the People’s Choice.

Team Tiara 2021 also consists of Maggie Roest, who was named Hyack Princess and is the recipient of the $3,000 Hyack Festival Association Scholarship. Four ambassadors, who will also represent the city and will each receive a $2,000 scholarship from Hyack, are: Claire Haffner, voted Miss Friendship by her peers; Lauren Dujmovic, the recipient of the Bernie Legge Memorial Award; Priya Dhaliwal, the Essay Award recipient; and Paris De Capite, the Alumni Award recipient.

“Our group of girls, there are six of us, they are all so amazing,” Makena said. “I know everyone probably says this, but I really wasn’t expecting it. I was really shocked, and it took a while to sink in, but I was really, really excited about it.”

This year’s event marked the second year that the Hyack Ambassador “Evening of Stars” awards gala was conducted from participants’ homes in New West because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of this year’s participants will continue to represent the city.

“It’s a leadership and scholarship program,” Makena said. “It’s not the United States where we walk around in our bikinis or anything. We have these weekly things and we learn. We have all these awesome presentations, and we learn all these life skills. It’s really helping – and I think the other five girls would agree – to shape us into these confident young women leaders. I really think it’s about that. It’s shaping us into these great humans. It’s not a beauty contest.”

For some of this year’s ambassadors, it’s not the first time they’ve represented the city together, as Makena, Maggie and Claire were in the same May Queen suite in 2015. The ambassadors attended the New West Parading in Place Drive-By Parade on Saturday.

“I am pretty excited about that. I am really glad that they were able to do it. It’s a creative approach,” Makena told the Record before the event. “With COVID, I think it’s perfect. I am really excited that they put that together.”