A sure sign of spring each year is the introduction of the newly-chosen Portland Rose Festival Princesses who will represent Cleveland and Franklin High Schools at events statewide until the Queen of Rosaria is selected - this year, on June 11th.
'It's a scholarship program, not a 'beauty pageant' or popularity contest,' explained Rich Jarvis of the Portland Rose Festival Foundation. 'To be accepted as a member of any school's court, the student must have at least a 3.0 grade average, be a community volunteer - their efforts are verified by the organizations they help - and they must have taken an active leadership role in student clubs and activities.'
Of the 130 young ladies who applied this year, Jarvis pointed out that every one of them meets - and most exceed - these criteria. All the princesses get coaching in personal presentation, etiquette, and public speaking - all valuable skills when they enter a profession.
At Cleveland High School's March 3rd late afternoon assembly, five ladies - J'reyesha 'Jay' Brannon, Erin McGowan, Tyeesha Marcell, Liz Schade, and Sarah Scrivens; all dressed in elegant floor-length gowns - took their seats on the auditorium's stage.
Kathy Ramsey, the incoming Princess's Pacific Power mentor, presented to each member of the court a gift, and thanked each for participating. Then, the school's outgoing representative was invited up to speak.
'I can't believe that a year ago I was on the stage waiting and wondering who would be the next Princess,' exclaimed Emily Taylor, the school's 2010 Princess. 'It's been such an honor to represent Cleveland High School during the Rose Festival. It was an amazing experience I'll never forget.'
Turning to the this year's court, Taylor concluded, 'Good luck to all of you. Enjoy every minute of it, because it goes by fast.'
Taylor then ceremoniously opened the envelope, and announced that 18-year-old CHS senior J'reyesha (Jay) Brannon had been selected.
In her first media interview, the 'Green and Gold's' ambassador, Princess Jay, told THE BEE, 'It's so exciting; I was so totally surprised. I will do my best to represent Cleveland the best I can. It's really an honor.'
About what it means to be her school's representative, Princess Jay said, 'This is the school I love; I've been here all four years. I participate in as much as I can: Black Student Union, founder of the Asian-pacific Student Union, part of the Queer-Straight Alliance, and our Dead Poets Society - I've been really involved here at Cleveland.'
Because of all her activities, Princess Jay said she hadn't yet given participating in the Portland Rose Festival much thought. 'I picked up the application as a last-minute thing. But now, as it turns out, this will be the most important way I can represent my school before I go to college.'
She plans to attend a four-year college to pursue a career in environmental and civil engineering - now she'll get a $3,500, boost thanks to a scholarship presented by The Randall Group.
Then, a dozen days later, on March 15th, the Franklin High School Auditorium filled with students and staff for a morning assembly at which their Portland Rose Festival ambassador would be announced.
One at a time, the ladies of the Franklin court - Heather Jett, Christina Salvitelli, Fernanda Robles, Lamarra Haynes, and Madeline Stowell - were introduced as each gracefully made her way to the stage proscenium, beautifully attired in floor-length gowns.
The ladies were then temporarily dismissed, and the audience was treated to a musical number performed by a Franklin High Quaker. Upon their return, each member of the court was presented with a keepsake by the school's assigned Princess mentor, Rene Halpern from Pacific Power.
When 17-year-old Franklin High senior Lamarra Haynes heard her name read, she looked clearly surprised, and pleased.
Cloaked in her royal robe, and wearing her tiara, Princess Lamarra spoke with THE BEE about being selected to represent the Quakers. 'My heart went up to my mouth when I heard my name, and I couldn't talk. I feel really happy - almost like I can't breathe.'
About her new role, Princess Lamarra said, 'I'm really excited! Really, really excited! I've been here since my freshman year, and have tried to always represent Franklin well. It'll be great to represent us on an even bigger scale.'
As a member of the National Honor Society and the Advanced Scholar Program, while also being a women's Varsity soccer player and member of the school's 'Link Crew' - as well as being a volunteer with the American Red Cross - Franklin's ambassador to the Portland Rose Festival seemed well-equipped to handle the challenge.
She said that she looks forward to all of the events she'll be attending. 'I'm especially looking forward to networking with people from all over the city and all over the state. It's going to be really awesome.'
Princess Lamarra said she plans to attend a four-year university with a major in criminal justice and a minor in visual art - now, with the aid of a $3,500 scholarship.
Cheer on Princesses Jay and Lamarra on June 11th at the 2011 Portland Rose Festival Queen's Coronation at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, just before the Grand Floral Parade begins. For tickets, or more information, visit the Portland Rose Festival Foundation's Internet website: www.RoseFestival.org .