Angela Perez Baraquio: A Life Built on Character

Angela Perez Baraquio (right in photo with District AG Cindy Williams) has a passion for character education, which includes and complements a broad range of educational approaches such as whole child education, service learning, social-emotional learning, and civic education. “The goal is to help children to people become responsible, caring and contributing citizens,” said Angela, who spoke at the February 28 District Breakfast.
Her greatest inspiration was her second grade teacher, who Angela said, “was so important to me because she planted a seed in me that affected my future. Because of her encouragement I wanted to become a teacher just like her. ”It took several years for that seed to germinate and part of the process included participating in athletics during high school. “That is where I really built my character,” commented Angela.
Her first job out of college and at age 24 was teaching. She was an athletic director at a high school. Angela’s students dared her to run a third time in the Miss America Pageant. Yes, that is correct. In 2001 Angela achieved her dream when she was crowned Miss America. Throughout the competition, “I focused on developing and enhancing my character,” commented Angela. In addition, she knew it was important for her to be true to her Filipino roots. “It was an asset and something I had to embrace and celebrate,” said Angela.
In reaching this prestigious milestone she shattered the principles set forth in Miss America’s Rule Seven. At that time, the rule read, “Contestants must in good health and of white race.”  “I broke new ground in 2001 and made history by becoming the first Asian-American woman, the only-Filipina woman, and the only teacher to win the competition since the pageant’s inception in 1921,” commented Angela.
In becoming Miss America, Angela showed her strength, determination, grit, and character. In her life today, Angela still embraces fully the meaning behind the four points of the Miss America crown: service, scholarship, style, and success.
Today, Angela continues to speak to national audiences about character education and her passion that everyone should achieve a fulfilling and rewarding life. I thing she enjoys is being able to inspire others to achieve their own goals and dreams.
Accomplishing our dreams does not mean the road will be easy. “It will always be challenging,” said Angela, who learned many valuable lessons in running three times for the Miss America title. Her story is one like no other.  As the eighth of 10 children, Angela’s family traveled to the United States and settled in Hawaiʻi in search of a better life. In addition, to the obstacles she encountered at the Miss America Pageants, there have been other bumps along the road, including the tragic loss of her younger brother, who committed suicide in 2006. 
After her one-year reign as Miss America, Angela married who high school sweetheart and they now have five children. She also returned to her first love: teaching. Angela is the principal at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Gardena. One of the reasons she took the position was that the school parallels her thinking.
“St. Anthony’s offers the type of learning community that allows each child to grow and reach his or her full potential academically, developmentally, and religiously,” remarked Angela.  “This enables the students to see God throughout every aspect of life. It is in this faith-filled partnership that we truly teach our children the ‘art of living well’ and set them on a path of faith and success for the rest of their lives.”