Meet Jennifer Zinke, Advocate's 2013 Prom Princess (video)

Jennifer Zinke is the Victoria Advocate Prom Princess.
  • PROM PRINCESS VOTING SCHEDULE

  • March 20-30 - Readers vote on the dress

    March 31-April 5 - Readers vote on hair and makeup selections

  • sponsors

  • Cindy's Place: $120 spa package. The Royal Treatment includes a facial, manicure and pedicure.

    McAdams Floral: Corsage

    All About the Dress: Dress, jewelry and shoes

    Hair Dimensions: Hair and makeup

    Tanique: Spray tan

    Guardians of the Ribbon: Escort the winner ...

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  • sponsors

    Cindy's Place: $120 spa package. The Royal Treatment includes a facial, manicure and pedicure.

    McAdams Floral: Corsage

    All About the Dress: Dress, jewelry and shoes

    Hair Dimensions: Hair and makeup

    Tanique: Spray tan

    Guardians of the Ribbon: Escort the winner and her guests to dinner and prom in either the pink fire truck or the pink bus

  • all winners

  • We heard repeatedly from readers during this process that all three girls were deserving of the Prom Princess title.

    We agree. All three finalists had great backstories, and each deserved to win in her own right.

    The voters may have ...

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  • all winners

    We heard repeatedly from readers during this process that all three girls were deserving of the Prom Princess title.

    We agree. All three finalists had great backstories, and each deserved to win in her own right.

    The voters may have chosen Jennifer Zinke as the inaugural Victoria Advocate Prom Princess, but the other two girls will go to prom as well - thanks to the generosity and goodwill of a few Victoria residents.

    Skye Lynn Valdez and Megan Koepp will attend the Victoria East prom with expenses paid.

    In this case, all three stories have happy endings.

The past week has been full of surprises for Jennifer Zinke.

The Cuero High School senior was stunned March 10 when her mother broke the news: She was one of three finalists for the Victoria Advocate's Prom Princess.

Then Friday, the 18-year-old learned she had won.

"That's crazy," Zinke said. "I feel really good about myself now because it was all a surprise in the beginning. I'm still in shock."

Zinke said she was surprised at the number of people who voted for her and was happy that the initial voting process was over.

Her mother, Denise Zinke, delivered the first surprise a week ago, when during breakfast at their favorite taqueria in Cuero, she showed her youngest daughter that day's newspaper while watching her jaw drop.

"I've gotten better at surprising her lately," said Denise Zinke, 42. "Usually I can't keep secrets from her."

Family friends Jon and Sandra Nichols had nominated the Cuero High School senior for the Victoria Advocate's Prom Princess competition for a sponsored and fully paid package to prom.

In the nomination letter, the couple wrote that Zinke's older sister, Amanda Lu Montez, 24, was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer in February.

This came as a huge blow to the high school senior, who had just lost her grandfather months before, her mother said.

"She took that really hard," the mother said. "They were really close."

For the past few weeks, the family has held fundraisers, a barbecue plate benefit and made T-shirts to sell to defray their medical costs.

And with her sister's medical bills slowly amassing upon the family's kitchen table, the family's chances of getting enough money together for prom, on top of their new medical expenses, seemed to diminish.

As Zinke rang up construction supplies for customers at Cuero's Tractor Supply Co. on Friday afternoon, she received a phone call telling her she had won the Prom Princess competition.

"It wasn't going to happen without winning this contest," said Don Salm, 65, a Tractor Supply Co. employee. "I really enjoy working with her; she does a good job."

And she was excited to hear the news.

"Ahhh, awesome," Jennifer Zinke said. "I laughed out loud. I'm so excited."

The next step in Zinke's Prom Princess journey will take her to All About the Dress, a Victoria boutique owned by Christina Cook, where she'll try on dresses. She will select three dresses for the public to vote on beginning in Wednesday's paper. The dress that gets the most votes will be the one she wears to the prom April 6.