By Donald Wittkowski
Hope Aita, a 14-year-old girl who comes from a family of doctors, wants to be remembered some day as the person who discovers the cure for breast cancer.
For now, though, her claim to fame will be as the newly crowned 2018 Junior Miss Ocean City.
The eighth-grader from Newtown, Pa., beat out 19 other contestants to capture the title Saturday night during the 12th edition of the Junior Miss Ocean City Pageant at the Music Pier.
“I’m in shock,” Aita said minutes after she was crowned by 2017 Junior Miss Ocean City Stella Schwartz.
Aita and her family are already well known in Ocean City pageant circles. Hope won the 2015 Little Miss Ocean City title. Her sister, Emily, is a former Junior Miss Ocean City, and another sister, Paige, is a former Little Miss Ocean City and former Junior Miss Ocean City.
Before she was announced as the winner Saturday night, Hope Aita appeared to be the front-runner after she captured both the talent and poise competition in the pageant. However, she said she never considered herself the favorite.
“I didn’t think I would win,” she said.
Selected as the pageant’s first runner-up was Julia Wilson, 14. Second runner-up was Mary Grace Jamison, 15. Third runner-up was Maddyn Randazzo, 15, and fourth runner-up was Emily Torrence, 15.
The Junior Miss Ocean City Pageant is open to girls between the ages of 12 and 15. To be eligible for the pageant, the contestants must have ties to Ocean City. In Aita’s case, her family owns a summer home in Ocean City.
Contestants competed in the categories of talent, poise and composure, the judges’ interview and an on-stage question.
In winning the talent portion, Aita performed a dance routine from the movie “La La Land.” She also grabbed the poise and composure segment while wearing an evening gown.
During the on-stage interview segment, pageant host Devon Vanderslice announced the career aspirations of each contestant.
“Hope will be remembered for finding a cure for breast cancer,” Vanderslice said of Aita’s career dream.
In an interview after the pageant, Aita said she would like to become either a doctor or a physician’s assistant. She noted that her father, Daren Aita, is an orthopedic surgeon. Other doctors in her family include her grandfather and uncles.
Hope attends Grey Nun Academy in Yardley, Pa.
As the newly crowned Junior Miss Ocean City, Aita will now take on the duties of ambassador for the city. Along with the other pageant winners, she will make publicity appearances at parades, contests and other special events.
Junior Miss Ocean City was the city’s third and final pageant this year. Madison Kennelly was crowned Miss Ocean City 2018 and Ginger Mumman won the Little Miss Ocean City 2018 title over the summer.