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Candidates vie for McKeesport Salute to Santa parade queen, princess

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 5:16 a.m.
Sarah Belback-Opferman
Cheyenne Lynn Burns
Moriah Crosby
Jayme Grabowsky
Destinee Kellner
Ahlaya Limley
Angel Redwood
Jessica Washowich
Nayelle Williams

McKeesport will crown its 2013 Salute to Santa queen and princess on Saturday.

Nominees will be escorted along the Fifth Avenue parade route by reigning queen Sarah Roka, representing the Joey-O Foundation for Autism Awareness, and princess Maia Rhodes, representing the NAACP McKeesport Unit. The nominees will travel in one float as they are introduced.

The 2013 queen and princess will be crowned during a children's party at the Palisades following the parade.

Nominees for queen are:

Moriah Crosby, 17, of McKeesport. Sponsored by the McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band, Moriah is active in the band, show choir, mixed ensemble and musical arts club. She represented McKeesport Area High School at the Gene Kelly Awards after performing in “Oliver,” and earned an award from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association. An anchor of the girls bowling team, Moriah received a 2013 award for being a sectional champion and placing 10th in the region, and she represented McKeesport at the state level.

Outside of school, Moriah plays piano, performs with McKeesport Little Theater and is active in church and Sunday school. She attended the Lott Carey Christian-based mission. She also is employed by Wendy's.

Angel Redwood, 17, of McKeesport. Sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People McKeesport Unit, Angel is active in McKeesport Area High School and the community. She is a member of the choir, glee club and Emerging Leaders group. She plays basketball and has participated in three musicals.

Outside of school, Angel belongs to her church choir and dance group. She volunteers with Helen's Daycare and has performed the national anthem at veterans programs.

Angel plans to attend Clarion University to study rehabilitation science and obtain a master's degree in occupational therapy.

Jessica Washowich, 16, of McKeesport. Sponsored by the McKeesport Area High School cheer and dance team, Jessica is a varsity cheerleader. She is an honor student who belongs to the environmental, foreign language and diversity clubs.

Outside of school, Jessica volunteers with Hot Cheer Allstars Special Needs Cheerleading, McKeesport Lions Club, International Village, Festival of Trees and Presents for Patients. She is a member of the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Jessica plans to attend college and earn a degree to work as a therapist for children with special needs.

Nominees for princess are:

Sarah Belback-Opferman, 15, of White Oak. Sponsored by the McKeesport Knights of Columbus Council 955, Sarah is a freshman at Serra Catholic High School, where she is an Interact club member. She is a member of her school volleyball team as well as Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball and White Oak Swim Team. She is an altar server at St. Angela Merici parish, works bingo events at the church and is active in the Junior Ladies of Charity.

Her future plans include attending college and finding a career in which she can be of service to others.

Cheyenne Lynn Burns, 13, of White Oak. Sponsored by the White Oak Athletic Association cheerleading program, Cheyenne is active in her home borough. She has been a cleanup day volunteer for 10 years. At Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church, Cheyenne volunteers at the food pantry. She also coordinated a fundraiser to provide Christmas dinner and gifts for the homeless.

In school, Cheyenne is a member of the yearbook staff, drama club and cheerleading team. She is an honor student. After high school, she plans to attend Penn State University to major in musical arts.

Jayme Grabowsky, 13, of McKeesport. Sponsored by the McKeesport Little Tigers, Jayme has been a cheerleader in that organization for 10 years and is the middle team captain. She is a student cheer coach for the Little Tigers flag and baby team cheerleaders. She volunteers with LaRosa Boys & Girls Club and White Oak Animal Safe Haven events.

An A-student at Founders Hall Middle School in McKeesport, Jayme is enrolled in the gifted program. She participates in choir, band, student council, yearbook, newspaper, drama club, stage crew, swim team and basketball team.

After high school, Jayme plans to attend the University of Miami for a degree in cardio-thoracic anesthesiology.

Destinee Kellner, 13, of Pittsburgh. Sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Soap Box Derby, Destinee was the 2012 third-place finisher in the Super Stock division and 2013 second-place finisher in the Super Stock Division.

Destinee is an honor student at Brentwood Middle School. She volunteers through school by tutoring elementary school students in a variety of subjects. She also volunteers with the American Diabetes Association as the “Stop Diabetes Hand Mascot” for its annual Step Out Walk. She is an avid soccer player, playing Division 4 travel soccer and Futsal for the Ringgold Lady Rams. She is an artist who enjoys painting, drawing, sculpting and working in a variety of digital media. She also sings in the Brentwood Middle School Chorus.

Destinee hopes to attend college on an academic and soccer scholarship and one day hopes to be a successful business owner.

Ahlaya Limley, 14, of White Oak. Sponsored by the McKeesport Area High School cheer and dance team, Ahlaya is looking for more opportunities to be involved in her community. She plans to attend law school and become a CSI agent.

Nayelle Williams, 15, of McKeesport. Sponsored by the NAACP McKeesport Unit, Nayelle is active in initiatives throughout McKeesport. She participates in the Youth CAST Leadership Program; Penn State Educational Partnership Program; Young, Successful & Determined STEM Program, The Future is Mine, Project HEART, YMCA Youth Outreach and Youth Places.

Through Bethlehem Baptist Church, Nayelle is a member of the youth choir and mime ministry. She has attended a work mission in Norfolk, Va., to pick corn, visit nursing homes and volunteer at food banks.

At McKeesport Area High School, Nayelle is an A-student. She is a member of the choir. She plans to earn academic scholarships and pursue a law degree.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or

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