SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- It was a dream come true and a truly magical moment for Chris Leon when he was crowned Mr. UC. 

The 16th annual pageant, one of the most highly anticipated events of the school year at Union Catholic, was shown via livestream on Tuesday night.

Leon was thrilled when he found out on Wednesday afternoon that he accumulated the most votes.

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“To be named Mr. UC is truly an honor, ever since freshman year I dreamed of being Mr. UC,’’ said Leon. “There is such a small number of men that have been named Mr. UC, and it is quite an honor to be a part of something so special. When I found out, I went completely numb and began shaking with excitement. It is an unbelievable feeling and I am so grateful that the UC community chose me.’’

Leon was one of 16 contestants, who all put on a remarkable display of talent and school spirit throughout the highly entertaining show.

The contestants were Leon, Jacob Cunha, Michael Fox, Daniel Gonzalez, Matthew Kelly, David Laguitan, Nicholas Mehno, John Mintel, Christian Nowicki,  Andrew Palacio, Julien Pereira, Liam Quinn, Conor Reilly, Christopher Robateau, Michael Valentin, and Ryan Villani.

The escorts were Katilyn Valendo, Cara Leegan, Chelsea Alves, Paige Scheidemann, Meghan Gelcius, Courtney Kenderes, Caitlin Roder, Lyndsey Buren, Catherine Tangreti, Abbey Ortiz, Kacey Brennan, and Silvana Schifano.

Because the school building is closed during the current coronavirus crisis, the Mr. UC competition couldn’t be held live in the auditorium. So all the segments of the show were recorded and shown via livestream for everyone to view.  

Leon praised Union Catholic for the making Mr. UC 2020 such a huge success.

“Union Catholic did a great job,’’ said Leon, who plans to play baseball and major in International Business in college. “It shows how dedicated our administration and faculty are to the students. So many events worldwide were canceled due to the circumstances, but UC did not quit. They made a great decision to record what we had on one of the last days of school. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the time dedicated by Sister Percylee Hart, Mrs. Donnelly, Mrs. Yezo, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McCabe and Dr. Reagan. In these times of adversity, we really see what we are made of and, I am proud to be a part of the Union Catholic family.’’

Leon said he’s beyond impressed by all the hard work his fellow contestants, choreographers, escorts, and the faculty poured into the event.

“Impressed is an understatement, there was so much hard work put into this coming from the contestants, choreographers, escorts, and the faculty,’’ said Leon. “I was really impressed by everyone's ability to adapt to the circumstances this year. I think due to the virus, it made Mr. UC 2020 an unforgettable experience. The guys stuck together and made it happen with short notice.’’ 

Leon, a member of the baseball team, the UC Livestream, a UCTV Anchor, Business Club President, Student Council member, and a Student Ambassador, donned a chef’s hat and displayed his cooking ability during the talent competition by making a gourmet hamburger and a gluten-free blueberry muffin.  

“I figured I would show a side of me not too many people know about,’’ said Leon, who lives in Union. “I truly love cooking and whipping up meals and treats, but I had to show off my favorite dish. If I ever open up a restaurant, I will name that burger the "Mr. UC.’’

Mrs. Kim Donnelly, who served as co-moderator along with Mrs. Melissa Yezo, was very impressed with how the contestants performed and was grateful to Union Catholic for making the pageant possible. 

“Congratulations to all the contestants,’ said Mrs. Donnelly. “The determination of this team to forge ahead with Mr. UC and bring some joy to our community during these difficult times is an inspiring example of how we can be all that God calls us to be. Many thanks to Sister Percylee Hart, the Administration, and everyone who helped make last night so special. Congratulations to all the contestants!’’

Union Catholic (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) prepares a diverse student body to fulfill their college and career goals by cultivating the students' achievement of academic standards of excellence within a value-centered environment, strong in its commitment to our core values (respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, and community), and to the establishment of a community of faith and love in the Catholic tradition. For more information, call (908) 889-1600 or visit www.unioncatholic.org.