Eleven-year-old Nina Sampogne leads a double life.
While she is an honor roll student at Abington Heights Middle School and an avid participant in local youth theater and dance groups, she hides something that most young girls her age would only dream of.
Sampogne, unbeknownst to her classmates, was recently crowned “Miss Waverly” at the 2013 National American Miss pageant in Anaheim, Calif. Winning trophies for best actress, talent, community service and resume, Sampogne competed against young women from all 50 states during the week-long event. She also received the “Judges’ Spirit Award” in recognition of her sportsmanship during the pageant.
Sampogne will make her official debut as Miss Waverly during the 10th annual Clarks Summit Festival of Ice parade, which steps off at 7 p.m. at the Clarks Summit Elementary School, 401 W. Grove St., and processes through Clarks Summit to the clocktower area. Other parade participants include Sculpted Ice Works, Ken Pollock Volvo of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Frontier Communications, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Dalton Fire Co., Clarks Summit Fire Co., Rob Smith, Farmer’s Insurance, United Sports Academy and Anna Grace Moher, who is Miss Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen.
Sampogne explained that she never would have gotten to become “Miss Waverly” if she didn’t stop her mother, Laura, from throwing away the invitation.
“I first got an invitation in the mail for a pageant called ‘National American Miss,’” she said. “My mom didn’t think I wanted to do it, but I saw the queen and how many great things she’s accomplished, so I tried it. Even though I didn’t win, I came in second out of 128 girls.”
“You can’t make her do anything, that’s why when the invitation came in the mail for the pageant, I was going to throw it away,” Laura Sampogne recalled. “She stopped me from throwing it away; I actually tried to talk her out of it. It is amazing, it is such a well-run pageant. It is all about you and what you do; there’s no make-up allowed. Everything is age-appropriate. They interview you before they select you. It is a big thing.”
Sampogne competed in the 11 and 12 year-old category as one of 250 participants at the National American Miss state pageant in Harrisburg. Overall, there were 2,000 girls competing for the title of Miss Pennsylvania from eight different age groups. Sampogne’s placement allowed her to participate in the national pageant, which accepted the top five young women from each state.
“National American Miss is not about commercials, makeup, poofy hair and eyelashes,” she said. “It is about who you are and what you do. It is about finding someone to represent the state of Pennsylvania. It isn’t that you have fancy hair; it is about your personality.”
Part of the National American Miss pageant revolves around community service; Sampogne has chosen the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter as well as the Children’s Advocacy Center as her major charities. She also supports Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the American Cancer Society and Camp Can Do.
While she is enjoying her time in the pageant world — she will compete in the Pennsylvania USA Ambassador pageant in Altoona this May — Sampogne wants a different kind of life in the fast lane.
“I want to be a race car driver when I grow up,” she said. “My dad [Dr. Vito Sampogne] has been taking me to a lot of NASCAR races. I just saw Danica Patrick racing; she’s the only female driver. No one thought there could be a female driver because it is mostly a boy’s sport. She didn’t care, she just raced and did whatever she wanted to do. I want to be like her.”
She is also excited to participate in the 10th annual Clarks Summit Festival of Ice parade, especially since she has fond memories of the festival from her childhood.
“My family and I used to always look at the beautiful ice sculptures and they were so magnificent and amazing,” she said. “I’d ask myself how someone could do something so amazing. I enjoy the festival and looking at the sculptures and now I am in the parade. It is very cool and feels
Above all, Sampogne feels that she has gotten to where she is today because she followed her heart and it led her to something she didn’t know she would love.
“No matter what your dreams are, just follow them,” she said. “You could come out of a small town or a big town, no matter where you are. You could come out and have a great time. You don’t know what will happen in life.”