For residents of the Kemah area, Gabriella Garza is becoming a familiar face. As the newly crowned Miss Kemah 2020, she often makes appearances at community and local outreach events.
Paying it forward is something she lives by. Whether it's giving back to her community or helping fellow students figure out where their talents can be put to use, Garza is ready and willing to offer a helping hand.
Garza first attended San Jacinto College as a dual credit student. Coming from a homeschool environment, she says that being in classes with older students was an eye-opener.
"At first it was a little intimidating, being one of the youngest students in my classes, but after a while, it was great," she said. "I had a lot of role models to look up to, and they were always willing to help me."
This struck a chord with her ever since, and now, being back at San Jac in the real estate program, she is always ready to help out her classmates.
"I know what it's like coming into a new space, not knowing anyone or who to talk to if you have questions, so I try to be that bridge," said Garza. "The community aspect of San Jac is the best part. Seeing familiar faces, getting to know people — you really get that family vibe. Especially for students coming from homeschool or smaller high schools, San Jac makes you feel right at home. Even though most classes are online right now, there are still great ways you can connect with your classmates and other students."
Giving back was something Garza felt compelled to do from an early age. At 16, she started her own organization called The Dress Foundation, where she personally collected formal dresses and tuxedos for students who could not afford to purchase or rent them for homecoming, prom, and other formal school events. Since then, she has expanded it to numerous local districts and homeschool affiliates.
Connecting with people is what Garza enjoys most as the reigning Miss Kemah. Community service encompasses a large part of the title holder's duties, which she has never shied away from. Several of her upcoming service projects include collecting items for Hurricane Laura victims, a beach clean-up, and visiting with patients at a local children's hospital.
Prior to the Miss Kemah Pageant, she also participated in the Miss Texas and Miss Houston pageants and cheered for the Houston Astros Shooting Stars. While she didn't grow up competing in pageants, having the courage to finally go for it was a decision she hasn't regretted.
"I remember watching the Miss USA pageants as a little girl with my mom, wanting to do that so bad," she said. "I didn't enter my first pageant until 2018, but I'm so glad I did. I just fell in love with it. It's given me a lot more confidence, and I've learned how to push past my comfort zone. There's so much I'm looking forward to as Miss Kemah and whatever comes next."
Currently, Garza works in the oil and gas industry as an asset integrity associate. In addition to obtaining her real estate license, she also hopes to open and run her own restaurant one day. Garza will compete for the Miss Texas USA title in early 2021.