2018 Miss New Mexico USA Candidate Kristen Leyva Encourages Young Girls To Pursue Careers In Engineering Through Her Program Called #JustOne

The United States may be known for its higher education; compared to many other countries. However women are just 13 percent of mechanical engineering undergraduate students. 

When these disparities persist, everyone suffers. Women miss out on opportunities in growing and highly paid occupations that require science and engineering skills. So, how can we get more women into engineering fields, and help them stay for their whole careers? We need their insight and creativity to help solve the problems facing our world.

The gorgeous Kristen Leyva, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss New Mexico USA 2018, created her own mentorship program called #JustONE where she utilizes her position as engineer to travel to elementary and middle schools all over her state to inspire and encourage young kids, especially girls to peruse opportunities and careers in engineering.

If she wins the crown Kristen will have the opportunity to represent her state at Miss USA 2018. Did you know ? New Mexico has had moderate success at Miss USA, with many placements in the 1960s to the '80s and one Miss USA, Mai Shanley in 1984.

I had the opportunity to interview Kristen on her preparation for the upcoming pageant. Lets know a little more about this beautiful and inspiring woman through this interview!

You will compete at the Miss New Mexico USA Pageant, how will you prepare the contest? What unique characteristics would you say you bring to the competition?

There are number of things that have gone into my preparation for Miss New Mexico but I have to say the most important aspect has been the people I’ve surrounded myself with. From the very beginning my family and friends have been so motivating and supportive throughout the entire process. I’m also a very family oriented person so spending time with them is key to me maintaining a great head space and staying grounded.

I would say unique characteristics I’m bringing to the competition include my devotion to my passion and intelligence. I’m a Mechanical Engineer for the U.S Department of Defense and my passion is encouraging young minds to embrace their inner intelligence and not be afraid to peruse challenging opportunities like engineering.

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Photo by Carlos Velez

49 girls were crowned for the 2018 Miss USA Competition, do you already have a favorite?

Bryce Armstrong, Miss District Of Columbia USA! She’s such a beautiful person inside and out. We met a few months before she went on to compete in Miss DC and after becoming very close with a few of the wonderful ladies competing in that pageant, I flew down there to attend and got to witness her crowning moment. It was beautiful and I’m obsessed with her cake business page on Instagram (mainly because I have zero baking skills). Hopefully we’ll get reunite at Miss USA (*wink *wink)


What inspired you to walk on the course of beauty pageants? 

I did not grow up with beauty pageants so my inspiration to peruse the title of Miss New Mexico actually came from the realization of what an impact one person can have on you. Growing up I had one amazing woman who showed me exactly what it meant to be a great title holder. She showed me that all it takes is one person to inspire someone to be or do something great and because of her I was not only inspired to become the engineer that I am today but I was also inspired to become that person for kids all over my state.

This incredible woman was my mom who was also a mechanical engineer. I lost her to cancer just two months before I was getting ready to graduate with the very degree she had inspired me to get. However, in that loss I realized what an amazing impact she had on me just by being the role model she was and I had decided I wanted to be that same kind of role model for others. As a result I began my #JustONE program. With this program I travel to schools in my state and encourage kids to be excited about engineering and most importantly give them the same opportunity that I was given. The opportunity to fall in love with engineering and have someone who believes in them.

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Tell me something about yourself and your work. What do you actually do, and have done in the past?

I was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was raised in a single parent house hold with my mom and sister. We enjoyed doing everything together and referred to ourselves as “The Three Musketeers.” Growing up I excelled mathematics and had a persistent curiosity for the way things worked. I once got in trouble with my mom for taking apart our family’s computer because I wanted to understand how it worked. Needless to say I got grounded but it also led to my mom, who was also a mechanical engineer for NASA at the time, to take me to work with her one day.

On that particular day they were launching the Crew Escape Vehicle for the International Space Station and it was such an impactful experience for me. So much that I went on to graduate from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and am now working as a Mechanical Engineer for the United States Department of Defense while also pursuing my Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. 


Kristen in front of a memorial of her mom at New Mexico State University - "She is the reason why I pour every ounce of energy and second of free time into these kids. Because I had someone who did it for me. All it takes is one person to inspire someone to do or be something great."

Many misses have said that their dream since a child was to participate in a pageant as prestigious as Miss World (or Miss Universe). It this your case ? And if so, why ?

This was not the case for me. My childhood dream was to be an engineer. I am a giant nerd. I didn’t get introduced to pageantry until I was in college. When I realized what pageantry really embodied, is when I got hooked and now I’ve got my heart set on that Miss Universe stage.

Social media seem to play a major role in pageantry nowadays. Do you think this is advantageous to you? Why or why not? 

I do think it’s an advantage. Social Media has given me the opportunity to promote my platform and my engineering outreach organization #JustONE. When I first went public with what I was doing in schools all over my state I actually began getting even more requests to come do classroom visits with the kids and get them exposed to careers in engineering. It’s created a great response in my community and has helped to expand my program which is amazing.  


We’ve all seen the stereotypical portrayals of pageant contestants, a la Miss Congeniality, spreading peace, love and beauty throughout the world. How do you think you'll make a difference ?

First of all, I really love that movie. If I could wear the title of Gracie Lou Freebush, I totally would. But on a serious note I really hope by being an example of a female in a male dominated industry, that other young girls are inspired to look beyond the stereotypes and peruse whatever sets their soul on fire.

What would you advise any young girl out there who has a dream of being a queen one day?

I would tell them that they don’t need a crown and sash to be a queen. A queen in someone who is confident in who she is and stays true to herself. So in pursuit of becoming the best possible version of herself and working hard towards her dreams, she will become a queen. After all, the girl is what makes the crown. The crown doesn’t make the girl.  


Thanks to the beautiful Kristen for the interview. Pageants News wishes you all the very best for Miss New Mexico USA pageant.