Mr. SHS contestants working to help those in need

For the 10 young men vying for the Mr. SHS title on Saturday, March 22, their efforts are about the children who will be helped…not winning the crown.


Erik Maldonado

Erik Maldonado is one of the Sunnyside High School students competing in the pageant on March 22.

He is the son of Elidia and Jacinto Maldonado, and has two sisters and a brother.

Maldonado said he wants to be Mr. SHS because he believes it is an honor to serve his school. However, he said, he wanted to help raise funds for Children’s Village so that young children with disabilities and illnesses will continue to receive services.

“I felt the process would be fun,” he said of the many fundraisers held throughout the two months preceding the Mr. SHS Pageant.

Maldonado is a firm believer in supporting others. He said that is because his mother has supported him in his various endeavors. “I don’t thank her as much as I should,” he said.

He said he has enjoyed being a part of the unique group of students vying for the Mr. SHS crown.

Maldonado’s one characteristic that makes him stand out? “I take everything in stride.”


Ivan Iniguez

Ivan Iniguez, the son of Judy Ramos and Rafael Iniguez, said he has been more concerned with the fundraising aspect of the Mr. SHS Pageant than he has been about the crown.

“I believe it is important to help the children served by Children’s Village,” he said.

Iniguez has three sisters and a brother. His brother has received services provided by Children’s Village.

“I feel good about the fact that the money we have raised will help children like my brother,” said Iniguez.

When he is not busy with the Mr. SHS Pageant and other school activities, he said he enjoys working out at the gym, as well as playing video games with his brother, niece and nephew.

Iniguez said he is a good listener and enjoys doling out advice when asked to do so. “I am slow to judge others,” he said.


Elijah Pena

Elijah Pena has wanted to be a part of the Mr. SHS Pageant for many years. He said he first attended the pageant when he was a seventh grader.

That experience inspired him because he realized the teens competing on stage were doing something that would benefit children like himself.

Pena, the son of Chrissa and Dominic Pena, has two sisters and a brother. He was born with a cleft palate. Children’s Village helped him, providing medical support and services throughout his childhood.

“Being a part of Mr. SHS is a way to give back,” he said.

Although Pena believes “…it would be cool to be named Mr. SHS,” he said it is more important to be a part of the bigger picture.

His history and experiences have inspired him to pursue a career as an athletic trainer following high school.

Pena said he would like to return to Sunnyside to serve student athletes in that capacity.


Ethan Partch

Ethan Partch is the son of Jim and Sarah Partch. He is also the youngest of two boys.

Partch said he doesn’t expect to win the Mr. SHS crown, but feels the opportunity to participate in the program was “…a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

He nearly didn’t participate, but friends who competed for the title before shared their experiences. The stories they told sparked his interest.

Partch said he has enjoyed the experience so far and he particularly enjoyed visiting Children’s Village, seeing how the funds being raised will be utilized.

“This is a chance to give back to others,” he said.

It is also an opportunity to spend time with friends, getting to know people he may not have otherwise known.

Partch said the bond between the candidates is stronger. “We are much, much more familiar with one another.”

To describe himself, he uses the words friendly, outgoing and rooted.

All of those attributes, said other candidates, make Partch fun to be around.


Ben Montelongo

Ben Montelongo said he has always enjoyed being involved in the community and activities that benefit others.

That’s why he was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to join the candidates for Mr. SHS when he learned he was nominated.

“This is another opportunity to help someone else,” said Montelongo.

Typically a quiet young man, he comes out of his shell when working toward a goal that he believes in. Helping Children’s Village is one of those opportunities.

Montelongo said he believes in the organization because it doesn’t just support the children, but the families benefit from Children’s Village services, as well.

“They help families that might not otherwise have the support they need,” said Montelongo.

Having a desire to help others extends beyond his present pursuits. Montelongo has been accepted to Washington State University and plans to pursue a degree in psychology.

“I like to listen, give advice and help others…I enjoy being a problem-solver,” he said.

The person who has most influenced him is his mother, Janie Ozuna. “She is selfless and independent…she has an unwavering strength,” said Montelongo, who also has an older sister.


Kurtis Tramel

Kurtis Tramel is following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, having learned the importance of YouthWorks and the effort to help Children’s Village via their experiences serving as Mr. SHS contestants.

Tramel said Mr. SHS is a worthy title, but “…it’s more about helping others.”

He said, “I am willing to go the extra mile…I believe in helping my community.”

Tramel has been involved in more than 30 community service projects in an effort to serve various organizations and individuals.

He is the son of Kent and Kathy Tramel. His father is his example of a role model, having worked hard to support his family, community and others.

“He works long hours, but still finds time to focus on the needs of the family and our community,” said Tramel.


Cameron Schlenker

Cameron Schlenker is the son of Scott and Lisa Schlenker. He has one sister.

“I like to help children,” Schlenker said of his reason for competing for the Mr. SHS title.

Although he admits to being competitive, Schlenker said helping Children’s Village means more to him than the crown does.

Following high school, Schlenker wants to earn an Associate’s degree at Yakima Valley Community College and transfer to Eastern Washington University to pursue a Bachelor’s degee.

“But, I don’t know what career I want to pursue yet,” he said.

In his spare time, Schlenker said he enjoys sports and hanging out with his friends.

“Spending time with my friends is important for strengthening bonds,” said Schlenker, who admits to not having a lot of spare time in recent months.

He said he also likes to help his community in whatever way possible.


Noe Palomino

Noe Palomino said, “Like everyone else, I got involved in the Mr. SHS Pageant because I wanted to help Children’s Village and YouthWorks.”

The Sunnyside High School wrestler is the son of Alida and Jr. Palomino. He has one brother and a sister.

Palomino said there are many memories being created via his involvement in the Mr. SHS program.

“It’s fun to spend time with the other candidates,” he said.

Describing himself to others, Palomino said he is trustworthy, passionate and compassionate.

He enjoys living in Sunnyside, stating he appreciates the sense of community when everyone finds a common goal to support.

“I most admire George Paulus,” said Palomino.

He said Paulus is known for treating the SHS wrestling team like family. “His decisions are based on what’s best for the individual and what that individual can accomplish,” said Palomino.


Ryan Pike

Ryan Pike is the son of Tony Sanchez and Christina Pike. He has three sisters and two brothers.

His participation in the Mr. SHS program, too, is about helping children served by Children’s Village.

“I have a cousin who didn’t receive the services she needed, and I don’t want to see others fall through the cracks,” said Pike.

He said participating in the Mr. SHS program provides him an opportunity to make memories with schoolmates who are focused on the same goal, as well.

Pike said he brings his energy to the program, helping others to be inspired.

“I help them stay on task and show enthusiasm when we are fundraising.”


Jose “Kiki” Torres

Jose “Kiki” Torres wants to follow in his older brother’s footsteps, participating in the Mr. SHS program.

That brother, one of two, won the title a few years ago.

“In the spirit of sibling rivalry, I vowed I would become a candidate,” admits Torres.

He said he later realized the importance of the program and developed a desire to help the children.

Torres also has a sister and his mother is Maria Plascencia.

“Being able to serve others has always been important to me,” he said, stating Children’s Village is a worthy cause for which he can utilize his selflessness, energetic and motivating personality.

Torres said those attributes help him to give to others.

“I find it is easy to give to others out of love.”

He said his energy helps him meet his goals and keep from being discouraged.

Being motivated, said Torres, drives him to do things to the best of his ability.

The Mr. SHS Pageant, to be staged at the Sunnyside High School auditorium on March 22, will begin at 7 p.m.


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