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Fiesta Court is proof the program does great things

This year’s Fiesta Mexicana Court is proof that the program is a success.

I’ve never really been one to appreciate the pageantry of what I’ve perceived the court to be, complete with waving and makeup and vague aspirations to create world peace. So it comes as a shock to myself that, after just a few short months, I believe this year’s six young ladies vying for the title of Fiesta Queen are worthy of nothing but high praise.by: JEFF MCDONALD - This year's Fiesta Court (from left) included Denisse Rubio, Sophie Velasquez, Jocelyn Delgado, Apolonia Munoz, Iridian Mendez and Melissa Escalona.

It all starts with the application process, setting the bar high so they have to rise to meet a certain standard. That is thanks to program mentor Marta Trinidad, who wants the Fiesta Court to aim high. But with this group, it almost seems to come naturally.

Melissa Escalona may have been crowned queen, but they’re all winners after the past few months in the program. They are judged on poise, behavior, volunteering opportunities they have taken and their public speaking abilities.

If you had met these girls in April, like I did at the start of the program, you would wonder, are these the same girls? They have completely blossomed in four short months, having committed to 50 volunteer hours, taking public speaking coaching sessions, making appearances throughout town and the state as the Fiesta Court.

They have been visible at nearly every Woodburn event, from Woodburn Summer Nights events in Library Park to the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to Relay for Life. And they’ve done it all with a smile, a wave and enthusiasm to better themselves and the world around them.

Not only do the queen and first princess receive scholarships from Chemeketa Community College, but being on the court has introduced them to opportunities they never thought possible. These girls have come from rough backgrounds, but thanks to the support of mentors and their hard work, they are blossoming to rise above their negative pasts and achieve far more than they would have imagined just a few months ago.

At Friday night’s coronation ceremony, these girls recited their platform speeches, sharing very personal ideals.

Many of them had to pause because of tears. Many received supportive applause from the audience. And all, it was apparent, had truly grown from this program.

Perhaps the two most soft-spoken and introverted girls provided the most personal and powerful speeches. Iridian Mendez broke down talking about her once problematic eating disorder, vowing to inspire other young people who have been in her shoes that they are beautiful. And when Denisse Rubio, whose platform was to help those who suffer from depression, bravely shared how four years ago she had attempted suicide, she was helped along by supportive cheers from the crowd.

Even if the rest of Fiesta Mexicana turned out to be a disaster, it would still be a success because of what it’s done for this group of young ladies.