BARSTOW • Jessi Hodges knows the coming year will be a busy one. Shelby Hawes agrees — they'll be tons of new people to meet, service projects to attend, and, of course, dresses to shop for.

In the coming year, Hodges, 16, and Hawes, 14, will grace hundreds of events — like their first ribbon cutting ceremony at Pace Services   Wednesday — as they become mini-celebrities and make the rounds in the community.

For Hodges and Hawes, winning titles at the Miss Barstow 2009 pageant on March 28 has been a process long in the making.

Hodges, who was crowned Miss Barstow, began entering pageants at age three. One of her earliest memories, she said, was being placed on stage by her grandmother as camera flashed. As a toddler, she worked the crowd, blowing kisses to onlookers.

Once she entered fifth grade, Hodges said she wanted to compete in the Miss Barstow young division — a decision she made for herself.

"I was kind of coming out of my shell," Hodges said. Then in 2007, she was crowned Teen Miss Barstow — a milestone, though she had been crowned as princess several times before. In between pageant events, Hodges also plays volleyball at Barstow High School and heads the yearbook's photography department.

Hodges said she likes being behind the camera more than in front of it, and won a photography contest in Pomona recently.

Pageant director Kris Watson said that Hodges' mature attitude has always stood out.

"You watch them grow up and you see them gain new skills and abilities," said Watson.

Watson has also seen Hawes, who began competing around age five, grow up on stage.

Hawes said she's progressed with the help of her aunt and older sister, also avid pageant participants, and grew up seeing videos of her aunt in competition.

"Whenever I saw one of them win, I wanted to be them," Hawes said. Watson noted that some people may see Hawes' diminutive stature and think, "'Oh, you're still a little girl,'" said Watson. "She's not."

Hawes is willing to take risks, and as a varsity cheerleader at BHS she even broke her arm and suffered a concussion during a cheer stunt.

Despite getting injured, Hawes said she enjoys being part of a team.

"You have to trust everybody," Hawes said.

Hodges said she hopes to use her reign to shatter some certain stereotypes about pageant participants — by organizing service projects and being active in the community.

"Girls that do pageants are normal people, too," said Hodges. "They're not robots. They're not dolls."

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(760) 256-4122 or elee@desertdispatch.com