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Miss New Rochelle Strives to Help Inner-city Youth

The 26-year-old New Rochelle resident is competing for the title of Miss New York USA.

When Maya Brown as Miss New Rochelle takes the stage Saturday at the Purchase Performing Arts Center, she won't just be concentrating on bringing the title of to the Queen City.

"My goal is to win Miss New York USA and broaden my help of children in the Bronx and Harlem and beyond," she said.

Brown, 26, is actively involved with Scan NY, an organization whose mission is "to provide at-risk families and children living in East Harlem and South Bronx with integrated family-focused programming which uses a positive approach, harnessing individual strengths and aiming to foster responsibility, self-esteem, initiative and the development of life skills."

"Scan builds communities for the youth in the area and tries to connect them to real life skills," she said, "helping them with job applications and getting them interviews."

Brown, who moved to New Rochelle three years ago, is assistant manager at Manhattan health club.

If she had her choice, the beauty pageant aspect of the weekend's competition would stay in the background.

But Brown realized that winning the pageant would help promote the causes she cares about.

"I will share a quick personal story about what led me to want to do the pageant and to work with kids," she said.

Brown is one of 19 children in her family, two of whom still live in Jamaica. She's had a chance to travel to several underdeveloped countries and brought those experiences back to help her work with inner-city youth in Harlem and the Bronx.

"Young people in urban areas have a whole lot of advantages here," Brown said. "They just don't know it. In Costa Rico, not a lot of kids get to go to school; it's like that in most third-world countries."

Through Scan NY, she works with about 30 young people, many of whom come from broken homes or have parents who are on drugs.

The program emphasizes education and literacy, giving the children incentives to stay in the program from third grade through high school.

And after? "If they don't want to go to college, we encourage them to pursue a trade," Brown said.

No matter the outcome of the pageant, Brown is passionate about helping her kids.

"I hope I win the crown," she said. "I want to continue volunteering with the children and get the word out about my cause."

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