FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A new Miss California Volunteer has been crowned tonight, Cassie Roby. Roby was Miss Santa Monica Volunteer.

The competition was held at the historic Tower Theatre.

The women involved say it’s not just about taking the stage, but about the work they put into the community after they win the crown.

The pageant started with words of encouragement from Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer as he kicked off the Miss California Volunteer 2023 and Miss California Teen Volunteer Competition.

19 contestants took to the stage Sunday evening, representing 11 California counties from all across the state.

Four of the young women proudly represented the Central Valley.

“It takes some guts to be up here and to put yourself out there so really I just think it’s an awesome opportunity for young women in the community,” said Alexa Knutzen.

Miss Volunteer America 2022, Alex Knutzen says being part of pageantry really made her grow into the person she is today, personally and professionally.

“Each of these contestants tonight have picked a serve initiative and that really is something that they care about in the community so they go out and do countless volunteer hours and work in the community to make a difference,” she added. 

Organizers say the 2023 class of contestants is made up of a city police officer, a 6th-grade teacher, a member of the air force, a NASA engineer, and much more.

“It is an honor, its the most humbling experience to have this platform and to share your experiences with everyone around you,” said Ashlyn Cruise.

Ashlyn Cruise competed on stage Sunday night, which includes fitness and wellness swimsuit, talent, evening wear, and on-stage questions. Cruise says she’s been doing it since she was 18 years old.

“I’m so passionate about this because I used to be a very shy person, I would never be in front of a camera… I would never stand on a stage but through these competitions, I have learned how to be just the best version of myself and be the most confident version of myself,” said Cruise.

It’s also an opportunity for young women to win a 10-thousand-dollar scholarship and a 2023 Chevy Equinox to use during the year of her service.

“Because of pageantry because of Miss Volunteer America, I’m actually debt free and I’m able to start my career head-on without any debt and I’m really grateful,” said Knutzen. 

Cassie Roby will go on to compete in nationals in June.