METHUEN — She was simply searching the Internet with her mother when they came across the Web site for the Massachusetts Miss Teen USA.

Intrigued about what she saw, 16-year-old Jessica Catarino decided to contact the pageant to find out what she needed to do to become a contestant.

“When I was younger I did some modeling, not a real lot, but some.” the Methuen High School junior said. “But I thought I really wanted to try and compete in this pageant.”

Catarino said she had to go on an interview, along with 600 other teenage girls from Massachusetts, to see if she met the criteria. She was pleased with what she saw.

“They showed us clips from last year’s pageant,” Catarino said. “Miss Massachusetts was there, too. As they called each girl in for their interview, the rest of us watched the previous pageants one by one.”

Catarino said the interviewers told her that girls ages 14 to 16 usually have their parents talk for them, but Catarino showed poise and maturity, something she said they appreciated.

Catarino said she is not expecting to win, but her goal is to at least place.

“When I first decided to compete, I just wanted to get into the pageant,” she said. “Then I wanted to be in the top 20 and now I want to at least be in the top 15 or 5. I would love to win, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

What excites Catarino the most is the prospect of meeting new people.

“It’s going to be great to make new friends,” Catarino said. “Plus, it’s a once in a lifetime thing to even try.”

The pageant, consisting of 84 girls throughout Massachusetts, takes place on Nov. 18 and 19 at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy. The winner of the pageant then competes for Miss Teen USA.

“The winner doesn’t get regular prizes or scholarships,” Catarino said. “What you do get is prizes for the next pageant like modeling and acting lessons.”

Catarino, who works with a pageant coach two to three times a week, said that if she doesn’t win, she will most likely try again next year. Catarino, a Methuen High School cheerleader, feels that will help her in the pageant. “I started cheering when I was 10,” Catarino said. “It helps with my fitness and being in front of crowds.”

Catarino said her parents, Tom and Chris, her 13-year-old sister, Becca, and all of her friends have been supportive from the beginning.

“They’re really excited for me and I was afraid to let people know at school because I didn’t want people to judge me,” Catarino said. “It was nice though, Mr. Nick (principal Arthur Nicholson) made a school announcement, without me knowing he was going to do it.”

Catarino, who takes honors and college-level classes, wants to be a teacher. She’s currently an intern in the early childhood education program at the high school run by Ann Marie Desroches.

She said because of the classes she has taken in the program, she has done a semester of college work and next year as a senior she will be an extern in a second-grade class in one of the grammar schools in Methuen.

“I love children and what they do is priceless,” Catarino said. “Watching them learn and seeing how excited they get when they learn something is just great.”

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at