On June 1, 2014, former Normandale Community College student Irene Viveros was named Miss Minnesota Latina as part of a pageant that took place at the Christos Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn. Viveros will compete in the Miss U.S. Latina pageant on August 24-30, 2014, which will be held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Viveros was convinced to compete in the Miss Minnesota Latina contest by 2010 winner and pageant director Carolina Reyes. At 27 years old, Viveros knew this would be her last chance to compete in the pageant, which ranges in age from 19 to 27. She prepared for the contest for months, and after a long day of rehearsals and activities that started early in the morning she was named Miss Minnesota Latina that evening.
"Even though it was a long day, it seemed like it just flew by," said Viveros. "It was a great experience, and the contestants really helped out and rooted for each other throughout the day. It came down to the three girls that were left, and when they announced the winner my jaw dropped."
Viveros and her family came from Mexico to Minnesota when she was nine years old. They originally lived in Northfield, and Viveros said as the only Hispanic in her class she was able to pick up English quickly. Her family eventually moved, and Viveros ended up attending Shakopee High School.
After graduating in 2005, she was not sure she could afford to attend college right away. However, with the help of a Shakopee Rotary Scholarship she was able to attend Normandale. Viveros was excited about going to Normandale for a variety of factors.
"After I got the scholarship, I was looking around the Twin Cities for places to go to college," said Viveros. "Normandale jumped out because it was very convenient to where I lived and worked, it was affordable and it had a good reputation."
Viveros enjoyed the diverse student population at Normandale, and also liked the flexibility the class schedule provided while she worked.
"I loved Normandale," said Viveros. "There was a lot of diversity on the campus, and I always felt like it was a welcoming environment. The instructors were very flexible with hours and assignments because they understood that most of us were working while going school. The schedule was also flexible, which allowed me to take classes in the evening and on weekends when I was working full-time."
Viveros graduated from Normandale in 2009 with an associate's degree in psychology. She started working at TRIA, which is located in Bloomington, in 2011 and is currently a medical receptionist with the company. Viveros believes that her time at Normandale helped her get the job, because of the college's reputation in the area.
"Because I applied for jobs that were in the area around Normandale, they knew of the college's reputation," said Viveros. "I found it easier to get a job because of the education I received at Normandale."
In her current position at TRIA, she has worked a number of public events for the organization. Viveros is interested in going back to college and getting a four-year degree in marketing or public relations, and pursuing a career in one of those areas in the healthcare or non-profit field.
"I think the variety of experiences I collected at TRIA, and the education I received at Normandale will open up a lot of options for me," said Viveros. "My time at Normandale helped me strengthen my communication skills, and improved my writing. It is also good to know going forward that most of (if not all) of my credits at Normandale will transfer to any of the major universities in the Twin Cities."
Viveros is eager to start going back to college to get her bachelor's degree. However, for now she has been dedicated to her preparation for the Miss U.S. Latina competition at the end of the month.
During her time as Miss Minnesota Latina she has made many public appearances, including emceeing a concert at the Minnesota Zoo, kicking off an event locally in the Twin Cities that celebrated the World Cup earlier this summer and many others. Viveros feels like these experiences have improved her social and public speaking skills. She states in a very humble manner that she hopes to be an effective role model for others through these experiences.
"I always try to be a role model for my siblings and my cousins," said Viveros. "I can only aspire to do that for other girls. Maybe they see something that other people tell them they can't do, and I would say to them to get out there and try it. You never know what will happen until you try, and my experience with Miss Minnesota Latina is an example of that."
Viveros mentions that her father was the first one to come to the United States, and that it was his sense of adventure that eventually brought her family to Minnesota. Looking back on those experiences, she is thankful that her dad opened those doors for her family. Viveros feels like she gets that sense of adventure from her dad, and is excited to see what doors the experiences at the Miss U.S. Latina pageant and her education will open up for her in the future.