Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
After cramming for that BioChem midterm or brushing up on her music theory, Ashley Gochoco ’14 travels to elementary schools
around her home town as Miss York County to teach students about the importance of discipline, dedication, and practice – skills, she says, are important no matter what a child wants to grow up to be.
A pre-med, Music major, Gochoco said she never thought she’d be competing in pageants. After winning the first scholarship competition she ever competed in her junior year of high school, Gochoco stuck with it. It’s paid off.
This spring, Gochoco is headed to the Miss Pennsylvania scholarship pageant hoping to come back with the crown which would send her to nationals. We sat down with Gochoco to hear about her path to pageantry and to wish her luck in the upcoming competition.
DG: Now, you’re not a toddles and tiaras type…
Gochoco: Oh god no.
DG: How did you get into it?
Gochoco: Watching Miss America on t.v. as a little girl, it was never a goal for me, like one day I want to be that girl, no, never. The vast majority of the women who make it to the Miss America stage actually probably didn’t dream about making it there when they were little girls. As children they did well in school, practiced their instrument or went to dance class…and then when they get older someone suggests this program as a great scholarship opportunity. That’s how it happened for me, I kind of just fell into it.
DG: What are your goals for competing? Obviously, the scholarship money isn’t a bad deal.
Gochoco: The goals of participating are, for me, the scholarship money, doing good work to convince others – school boards, their administrators and educators, and legislators – to make funding for music education a priority, and the chance to serve as a positive role model. I’ve definitely put a lot of work into preparing for the state competition, but it’s been a cumulatively culminating experience. The people I’ve met through my involvement are very impressive- I have a lot of respect for the work that these program volunteers do as well as the achievements of my competitors.
DG:Your talent is a violin piece right?
Gochoco: Yes. A classical violin piece called Gypsy Airs by Sarasate.
DG: Why did you pick that piece?
Gochoco: It’s a really technically demanding and challenging piece. It’s a real crowd pleaser but it’s not easy at the same time, and I wanted to challenge myself. Actually, this isn’t necessarily my goal, but the only Miss America who’s won who’s played violin played that piece. I’m setting the bar high for myself, so we’ll see how that goes.
DG: I’ve seen pictures of you helping children play violin with your sash on and riding in the back of a car. Can you talk about your duties as Miss York County?
Gochoco: Each local winner and actually each winner at every level of state and national has a person platform that they support during their year and this can be a cause or an organization that they think is very special. My platform that I’ve been working to support has been continuing and preserving music education in the public school systems. There have been so many studies on correlations between brain development and academic performance with music. Down to the scientific level their neuronal connections are strengthened.
Visiting classrooms is definitely the most enjoyable work I’ve done to promote my platform. When you walk into a classroom full of little kids who have no idea who you are, and you’re wearing a sparkly crown and sash- bam, you’re a princess. In that brief moment of enchantment, it’s my responsibility to deliver a message on the importance of practice and dedication, and make the kids realize that this “princess” didn’t learn how to play the violin by picking it up when she felt like it. While visiting classrooms is the fun part, I plan on reaching out to educators and their school boards and also community organizations. One of my ultimate goals includes attacking the problem from the top down by speaking to our lawmakers throughout the state.
Gochoco: The whole anti-feminist, it’s outdated, they make you strut on stage in a bikini. Yeah, it’s interesting from the outsider perspective. I’m always concerned about people’s initial reaction to hearing that I do pageants. But I know what my goals are in life. I’m studying to be a doctor. I’m here at Swarthmore majoring in music. Honestly, a lot of my competitors that I’ve had the chance to meet already. They are all bright, very talented, very smart individuals who can handle themselves speaking in public. I give a lot of credit to the other girls I’ve met. The Miss America Organization is not a system that exploits its contestants- its scholarship rewards are merited on the basis of the young woman’s talent, intelligence, and genuine personability that makes her a good role model for other young women. There’s a huge emphasis on scholastic achievement and community service. You can’t even call it a beauty pageant because you don’t win by that.
DG: What’s your favorite part of the competition?
Gochoco: I think my favorite part of the competition is the interview portion. I really enjoy being able to show my stuff before a panel of judges. One day when I reach that point where I’m doing an interview for medical school, I’m sure it won’t be as daunting. They’ll be asking different types of questions but on the other side of the table I’ll be able to recognize that they’re just people who want to know me and my goals and ambitions better. This program really works to prepare women pre-professionally in many ways because you work on presentation and oratory skills.
DG: You’re really going to the big leagues now. How is the competition harder?
Gochoco: My preparation going into this has been the same. I’m setting the goal for myself to do the best that I very can, but at the same time, in this age of super over-achieving girls who want to do their best and come out as perfection on top. That’s not my goal. My goal is to do the best that I can and stay sane doing it. I think I’ve prepared in a pretty healthy and productive way. You know, practicing my piece until it’s as good as I think it can be. The last thing I want to do is turn into Natalie Portman in Black Swan. You can’t do that, preparing for a thing like this because it compromises your integrity and purpose for doing it in the first place.
The Miss Pennsylvania 2012 competition will be held May 26 in Pittsburg. To stay up-to-date on the competition visit the Miss PA website.