HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Fourteen-year-old Vanessa DeJean of Absecon plans to attend Juilliard College after she graduates from Holy Spirit High School. If her performance at the Hamilton Mall’s Got Talent finale on Thursday, Aug. 29 is any indication of her ability, she is well on her way to a successful career.

The high school sophomore was the highest scoring performer among the 15 contestants and captured the title at the annual event. Her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” drew prolonged applause from the crowd.

“I chose this song because it means a lot to me,” Vanessa said.

While open to various options, Vanessa hopes to launch a career in pop music once she graduates from the esteemed school.

Another performer who wowed the crowd was 10-year-old Stephan O’Neil, of Mays Landing. His performance of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” had the audience members clapping to the beat and swaying as he did the same on the stage.

The Thursday contest featured the top three competitors from each of the five preliminary rounds.

The judges for the finale included DJ Clinton Conyer, SoJo 104.9 radio personality Heather DeLuca and Alex Glover of Center Stage Entertainment. Marialaina Catrambone served as the emcee.

Glover was impressed by the talents exhibited by all the performers. “The voting was very, very close,” he said. “Definitely the closest in the fourteen years we have held this competition.”

Vanessa earned $1,500 for her winning performance. The second-place prize of $700 went to 17-year-old Rylee Oswald, of Swedesboro, for singing her original song, “Hold on to Me”, while John Hoey, of upstate New York, earned $300 for performing a variety of magic acts that awed the audience.

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