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Compiled by Jill Spitznass, Michaela Bancud and Tina Satter • Photos by Kyle Green • Everything's coming up roses and ambassadors for the Portland Rose Festival 'Fun, Fantasy and Fanfare' is the theme of the 2003 Portland Ros

This is the year of the brunette, at least if one is a member of the 2003 Rose Festival Court.

With one fair-haired exception, the 14 ambassadors comprising this year's court are dark-tressed young women. All of them, of course, are shining representatives of their schools and the city as they participate in the Portland Rose Festival.

As part of a tradition that dates to 1931, the ambassadors of Portland area high schools were elected by their respective student bodies for their character, communication skills and presence. To qualify, they must be seniors with commendable records of citizenship and attendance, and they must have a GPA of at least 2.75.

Since May 1, the court has maintained a whirlwind schedule of appearances. The queen's coronation is Thursday evening.

In addition to their moment in the limelight, each young woman receives a $3,000 scholarship and a stylish wardrobe, courtesy of local companies such as Nordstrom, Columbia Sportswear, Fred Meyer and Packouz Jewelers, which presented each girl with an engraved wristwatch.

The ambassadors visited the Tribune recently. Each brought an object that was significant to her and explained how it symbolized who she is.

Portland Rose Festival Queen's Coronation

When: 8 p.m., Thursday, May 29

Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, 503-248-4335

Cost: $12, $6 students 18 and younger; all seats reserved. To purchase, go to www.rosefestival.org or call 503-224-5373

Kirsten Acheson, 17

'Since I was a little girl, I'd pretend that I won an Academy Award,' says the Lincoln High School ambassador, holding a mock Oscar. 'That's why I brought this statue; I always wanted to be up there.'

Acheson, who recently played the role of Celia in Lincoln's production of 'As You Like It,' hasn't decided which college she'll attend this fall but eventually plans to study drama at the University of Southern California. 'I especially like Shakespeare,' she says. 'He's awesome.'

One of four sisters, the raven-haired young woman says that being a member of the rose court is similar to treading the boards. 'Being an ambassador requires grace and presence,' she says. 'In that way, it's not so different from acting.'

Lincoln High School court: Jennelle Milam, Emily Sitnick, Giselle D'Souza, Stephanie Wynn, Parimal Deodhar, Kitty Haglund

Priscilla Chandler, 17

Parade participation is part of the job requirement for a Rose Festival ambassador, so Priscilla Chandler should be just fine. The Benson High School ambassador is a longtime participant in her school's marching band and most recently served as drum major of the school pep band.

The whistle she displays was a gift from her band director. 'There is a lot of responsibility to the position,' Chandler says.

Her mother longed to have her daughter on the rose court. Now that she has made her mother's dream come true, Chandler is finding rank has its privileges. 'Thirteen new friends have made the challenges and commitment of being an ambassador much easier,' she says.

A member of the 4x400-meter track team that set the Oregon record for the event, Chandler also was captain of the varsity soccer squad this year and may try to walk onto the team at the University of Oregon in the fall. 'I at least want to know that I tried,' she says.

Benson High School court: Yennie Quach, Brianna Bradley, Katie Cummings, Suzanne Hanson

Mimi Danh, 18

Mimi Danh is not fazed spending her days on the rose court surrounded by 13 other teens; she's the youngest of seven children.

'I was spoiled by my siblings,' she says. 'But I also learned the value of family and strong connections with other people.'

Danh's ability to assert herself has been put to use in high school, where she served as president of the National Honor Society, vice president of the senior class and captain of the tennis and volleyball teams. Valedictorian of her class, she plans to attend Willamette University with an eye on becoming a lawyer.

When asked the most surprising part of being an ambassador, Danh cites a moving visit to a home for disabled adults. 'It's much more than the cute clothes we get,' she says. 'There is an immediate difference that we make in the community.'

She's shown here with her snowboard: 'It's something I do with my family.'

Parkrose High School court: Meagan Yohn, Krystal Wells, Katherine Beymer, Abrina Wheatfall, Holly Knoles

Autumn Dones, 17

Autumn Dones is fulfilling her grandmother's dreams and her destiny. Dones was a junior rose princess in elementary school. But her past could not completely prepare her for the future, and she has been surprised by the current experience.

'It's even more fun than I envisioned,' she says. 'You never know what to expect with a bunch of girls together, but the other ambassadors are terrific.'

Dones is a member of the Wilson High School choir and the cheerleading squad but has found her true love in dance, as a performer and teacher. She leaves in August to begin touring with the Young Americans, a music and dance outreach program that travels to schools all over the country.

'I can't wait,' she says, 'I've been dancing since I was 5 and never imagined I could perform in this capacity.'

She's shown here with her journal: 'I keep all my good memories in it; I'll always keep it.'

Wilson High School court: Maarika Teose, Muyoka Wambalaba, Megan Hoarfrost, Rayna Verbeck, Kate Rood

Brandy Gump, 18

Gump loves her last name, made famous in that Tom Hanks movie. 'I'm going to keep it when I get married,' she says.

The Cleveland High School ambassador is an actress herself, a skill she'll polish when she enters Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts this fall. The oldest of five children, Gump chose the school for practical reasons:

'I was also accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (in Hollywood), but I wanted a well-rounded education. And besides, Hollywood is expensive.'

As her 'wood cookies' suggest, Gump is proud of the time she's spent as a camp counselor. The traditional camp name tags bear her nickname, 'Zodiac,' and are souvenirs of good times.

'The kids love you; it's like being a rock star for a week!' she says.

Cleveland High School court: Kristi Fowlks, Tawnya Talcott, Anna Prosser, Sarah Stenzel

Priscilla Isaacs, 17

Priscilla Isaacs is happy she made the decision to attend Franklin High School over Jefferson, where her love of dance nearly steered her. Active in Franklin's student government and the First Covenant Church, she also was the emcee at most of the school's pep assemblies.

Articulate and poised, Isaacs will pursue, appropriately, a communications degree after high school. 'Franklin is a very unified and spirited school,' the third-year varsity track member says.

She's pictured with photographs of people important to her: best friends Jessie and Anna, and Jack Irvine, a family friend. Irvine guided Isaacs, who grew up without a father, through her busy high school years. She plans to attend Portland State University in the fall.

Franklin High School court: Allison Lebus, Staci Vollmer, Ashley Robbins, Tamara Mlady, Summer Mencher

Phoebe Keever, 17

'I've wanted to be a doctor since I can remember,' says Keever, who plans to take the pre-med track when she enters Willamette University this fall, with the goal of becoming a Third World physician.

The Roosevelt High School ambassador says a two-month stay in Costa Rica last year fueled her dream. 'I proved to myself that I could handle a whole new way of life; cold showers weren't such a big deal,' she says.

Holding a photo album that sparks memories, Keever credits her mother, friends and boyfriend for keeping her grounded. 'I'm always thinking of what I can do to make tomorrow better,' says Keever, a member of her school's mock trial club. 'I've definitely got my eye on the future.'

Roosevelt High School court: Nicky El-Ayache, Amy Herold, Brittany Ashworth, Johanna King

Kira Lesley, 18

Dark-eyed Kira is the daughter of Northwest literary lion Craig Lesley. This fall the St. Mary's Academy senior will attend Brown University in Rhode Island, where her sister, Elena, will be a senior.

Lesley is pictured here with two Czarist-era lapel pins that her grandmother bought while fleeing Stalinist Russia. She plans to study economics or politics in college.

'Growing up in Portland, you become very aware of politics,' she says. 'I've also been interested in the economic forces behind changing neighborhoods.' Lesley has worked on two local political campaigns.

So, what was it like hobnobbing with the literati as a tot?

'My sister and I went along on an author tour with my dad to small towns in Oregon and Washington Ñ he called it the 'blue highways tour,' ' she says. 'I have a picture of myself from that trip with short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver.'

St. Mary's Academy court: Rachel Forte, Jessica Kanaan, Elissa Newton, Heather Robinson, Cary Stussi

Andrea 'Annie' Mears, 17

'That's 'ears' with an 'm,' the spirited Mears explains. A mile-a-minute talker, Mears relates next how she left her purse the other night at Meow Meow, an all-ages rock club in Southeast Portland.

What happened? She set it down on the stage in order to dance Ñ alone. No wallflower, she. 'I love to dance!' she blurts, noting she is on the Grant High School hip-hop dance squad. What she loves even more, she adds, is rock 'n' roll. Her bedroom is plastered with photos of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Stevie Wonder.

Good thing, then, that Dad is in a rock band. He also is a special education teacher and a track coach at Grant. This comes in handy for many reasons but primarily because, she says, 'I can get money for lunch anytime I want.'

She wants to follow in his footsteps and become a teacher, and she's still hoping to get around to calling Meow Meow about that purse.

Grant High School court: Abby Drago, Shaunel Watts, Sara Kendall, Crosby Bromley, Elyse Taylor

Svetlana Nasteka, 17

A failing economy and bleak future prompted Nasteka's parents to flee a collapsing Soviet Union in the early 1990s and bring their six children to America. Since then, the Marshall High School representative hasn't looked back; she's even skipped a grade of school.

A National Honor Society student and member of the volleyball team, Nasteka considers painting one of her greatest joys: 'It's hard to do with a lot of brothers and sisters around, but my mom makes that space for me; she loves it when I paint.'

And like dutiful moms and dads everywhere, Nasteka's parents also remind her that people are judged by the company they keep. 'But it sounds a lot worse in Russian,' she says with a laugh.

Marshall High School court: Brittany Grizzard, Lisa Richardson, Traci Lawrence, Angelia Hafner

Myleen Roberts, 18

As a chapter of her life draws to a close, Roberts is ready. 'It's time to start a new life,' says the ambassador from Jefferson High School. 'But I'll miss my friends; I've been taking a lot of pictures lately.'

Roberts enters the University of Illinois this fall and plans on honing the skills she's learned as a member of Jefferson's choir.

'I love to sing,' says Roberts, who is proud of having lettered in choir and is shown with her J. 'And there's something about making harmony that really brought us together.'

One of six siblings, Roberts says she also considers her fellow Les Femmes debutantes to be family: 'They're like sisters to me.'

Jefferson High School court: Gemira Mays, Ombrea Moore, Ashley Caldwell, Alexis Capers, Shareena Holloway

Kali Sanders, 18

'I watched all the parades as a little girl. This is my dream come true,' says the David Douglas High School ambassador.

Sanders credits her friends with giving her the support to achieve her dream and points to a collage that a good friend made, saying, 'This has so many memories of high school and all the amazing times.'

In addition to cultivating friendships, Sanders spent time serving on her senior class council and as part of a student mentor program. She also was the dance team captain and would like to continue dancing when she attends the University of Oregon next fall. She plans to study physical therapy.

Naturally, a highlight of being a member of the rose court has been all the new friends, she says. 'The best part is definitely getting to know the other girls.'

David Douglas High School court: Bridget Callahan, Tiffni Granlund, Kerrie Green, Danielle Hagardt, Anna Howell

Lisa Sheridan, 17

Oh, sure, there's the glamour and the glitz, the tiaras and the flowers.

But there's also the chance to make a meaningful difference in peoples' lives. Sheridan knows a thing or two about community service: She volunteers at Doernbecher Children's Hospital once a week and plans to attend the University of Oregon and become a nurse.

Sheridan, who has an easy smile, also loves country music and is looking forward to the court's trip to Pendleton. The Central Catholic High School student is shown here with a hat awarded at a school retreat.

Central Catholic High School court: Julie Kugel, Becky Lulay, Stephanie Clements, Kendall Shepard, Angelina Lusetti, Faye Porter

Cezanne Surratt, 18

Everything's coming up roses for this levelheaded Madison High School senior named for the postimpressionist painter Czanne. She shares an artistic eye with her namesake.

Usually hauling around a 35 mm camera that belonged to her dad, she is enthusiastic about taking photographs of nature and architecture. 'I take a lot of photos downtown. I try to find a building's leading lines and reflections in nearby buildings,' she says.

She'll pack her camera bag this fall and head to the University of Oregon, where her sister is already a student. Cezanne also enjoys competing in track, especially the long jump and sprinting.

Madison High School court: Vone Indra, Jenny Cressy, Suzanne Bilderback, Anna Sverbiyeva, Emma Purice, Ashlee Lahiff

Compiled by Jill Spitznass, Michaela Bancud and Tina Satter • Photos by Kyle Green