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It's been a point of pride for Jessica Richards: Her mother was once crowned Miss Utah.

And yet Richards, an Alta High junior and reigning Miss Draper, is quickly making a name for herself. She beat out 23 girls from across the state last month to claim the title of Miss Utah's Outstanding Teen.

She now will represent the Beehive State at the Miss America's Outstanding Teen competition next summer in Orlando, Fla. The contest is the little sister to the Miss America pageant.

Although Richards is new to the pageant scene, she is undefeated. She won her first pageant, Miss Draper, and claimed the crown in her second, Miss Utah's Outstanding Teen.

It's a string of successes that Richard predicted as a youngster. At 5 years old, she told her mother, Stephanie Richards, that she planned to follow in her footsteps as a future pageant winner. Except for one thing: She wanted the national crown.

Stephanie Richards was named Miss Utah in 1986. She then finished in the top 15 at the Miss USA contest in Florida.

"[Jessica] told me, 'I'm going to be Miss Utah, but I'm going to win the whole thing,'" her mother recalled. "I just laughed."

Jessica Richards said she has tried to emulate her mother.

"I thought I had expectations to live up to," the 16-year-old said. "[My mom is] so wonderful and beautiful and poised, I always wanted to be like her."

Richards, an accomplished pianist who rearranged and performed a Jon Schmidt piece for her talent in Miss Utah's Outstanding Teen, will spend the year sharing ideals with young people across Utah.

Among her focal points: teen seat-belt safety.

The issue is close to her heart. Two years ago, her brother Spencer, then 17, went off a cliff in his Jeep Cherokee. The vehicle had five seats, but seven people were inside. Spencer broke his collarbone, but no one was seriously injured.

"Nobody had a seat belt on," Richards said. "The police said angels were watching over them for sure because it's a miracle that everybody was alive and nobody got ejected from the car."

The accident had a serious impact on Richards' family, and she hopes to convey to her peers how quickly tragedy can happen.

The teen has teamed up with the Utah Highway Patrol and the Creamies ice cream company for a "Click It for Creamies" campaign. At select high schools, students will receive frozen treats if they're buckled up.

"The judges were very impressed with [Richards'] story and her motivation for wanting to do seat-belt safety," said Amy Rasmussen, director of Miss Utah's Outstanding Teen. "Her platform was really something a lot of people can relate to. ... She's just a very well-spoken, genuine, all-around amazing girl."

Richards won thousands of dollars in scholarship money and prizes from the pageant, including a two-year scholarship to Utah State University and a $2,500 stipend from Meadow Gold that can be spent at any school.

In the future, Richards plans to become a physician's assistant because she loves serving others.

She'll get plenty of chances to serve this year, her mother said.

"I think it'll be a great year," said Stephanie Richards, who suspects her daughter will have many leadership and speaking opportunities. "I think she'll grow tremendously."

As for Jessica Richards' long-ago prediction that she'll outdo her mother in a national competition? Only time will tell.

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