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Queens Chronicle

Raising big funds; having big dreams

Miss New York Junior Pre-teen may be Howard Beach’s youngest activist

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Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:31 am, Thu Oct 25, 2012.

More than 60 million people watched CNN’s Candy Crowley moderate the debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday night. In a few decades, many more may watch Joli Russo of Howard Beach do the same.

The 9-year-old says she wants to be a broadcast journalist one day and has her eyes set on the Nightly News desk. “One day, she wants to be a broadcast journalist,” explained Joli’s mother, Lisa Russo. “She likes to say ‘watch out Diane Sawyer, I’ll be taking your job one day.'”

In the meantime though, the fourth grader at PS 207 is focused on making her community better.

Russo won the Miss New York Junior Pre-Teen competition in Brooklyn in August, part of the National American Miss pageant — a nationwide organization of pageants for young girls. Lisa Russo said many who win at NAM pageants go on to the big ones, including Miss America. Joli will go on to compete in a national competition next month.

Joli’s hero, Diane Sawyer, was herself a pageant winner in her native Kentucky.

But whether or not Joli Russo will one day wear the Miss America crown is not an immediate priority for this youngster. Instead, she is focusing her energy on helping underprivileged children and raising money for a cancer cure.

Last weekend, despite the wet, chilly weather, Joli took part in a walk to raise money for pancreatic cancer at Jones Beach. She is also partnering with the Columbus Day Foundation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to raise money.

At PS 207, Joli is part of the “nesting program,” where she helps her fellow students who have autism develop socialization skills.

“She’s always out there to help someone else,” her mother said.

Joli has also dabbled in some acting. She has done a few episodes of the ABC show “What Would You Do?” where actors perform skits in public places to see the responses of normal people who do not know it’s an act. She will star in one segment in this week’s episode airing at 9 p.m. on Friday on Channel 7.

She also recently starred in a short movie called, “Thanks, Dad,” which her mother said had a tough storyline about abuse,“That was a little hard film, but she was very good,,” Lisa said.

Currently Joli and her mom are busy collecting costumes for children who may not be able to afford one this Halloween. So far, they have gathered a big number and are continuing their drive through Oct. 25.

Anyone interested in donating a costume can called Lisa Russo at (347) 238-1715.

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