HILLSDALE - Wilson High School announced its chosen Rose Festival princess, Tonita Cabrera, in a ceremonial coronation March 4. In a school assembly earlier that day, the seven senior girls nominated for the position appeared before the student body.
The auditorium was abuzz with students' chatter as they waiting in anticipation to cast their vote and hear who the winner of the Rose Festival crown would be.
'Ever since I was a freshman, I've looked forward to watching the older girls in the assembly,' said Wilson senior Jamie Latham. 'This year is especially exciting because I get to watch my friends from my own class carry on the tradition.'
Wearing formal dresses and carrying bouquets, each nominee stepped up to the microphone and delivered a speech addressing what she felt this year's theme, 'Romancing the Rose,' truly meant. Each then shared a slide show and answered an impromptu question. Wilson students from all grades were then given ballots and told to vote for the nominee they felt could best represent the high school in the Rose Festival Court.
Cabrera, quoting Dr. Seuss in her speech, advised her peers to 'be who you are and say what you feel.'
She cited her accomplishments as a Wilson cheerleader and highlighted the team's greatest achievement: being the first WHS team to win the state competition in 2007. Cabrera was voted 'Best Dressed' by her 2008 senior class and plans to pursue a career in fashion marketing at the Art Institute of Portland.
'My cheerleading coach, Shannon Maloney, inspired me to be myself because that's the kind of person that will win,' said Cabrera. For three years, Maloney coached Cabrera on the Wilson cheerleading team, and Cabrera looked to her for advice and feedback while preparing her speech.
Cabrera said she was shocked when she won, adding that she 'didn't think I was a good public speaker.'
She said the responsibilities and attention were overwhelming. In order to take part in all the activities that the Rose Festival entails, Cabrera will not be able to participate in some important milestones with the rest of her senior class. Missing prom and the senior barbecue, though, she says, is worth it.
As Wilson's princess, Cabrera will represent her school at various community events in May and June and prior to the festival. One of Cabrera's responsibilities will be to attend the coronations of other high schools' princesses.
'I'm excited to meet all the other girls and travel around the city with them,' Cabrera said. 'I look forward to meeting new people.'
In addition to a $3,500 scholarship, all of the princesses will be provided with wardrobes by such local companies as Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Fred Meyer.
Cabrera, who said she wasn't sure how she would pay for college yet, welcomed the scholarship money. She added that she looks forward to using it to pursue a career choice that she feels suits her own interests rather than those of her parents or peers.
Although this process is a longstanding tradition at Wilson, administrators are re-evaluating its efficiency. The assembly took a chunk of instructional time out of the school day, running 15 minutes longer than the hour designated for it, and the accuracy of a peer vote is being questioned.
A decision made by a panel of judges appointed by the Rose Festival Committee rather than a possibly biased student body would be better, argue supporters.
'The Rose Festival is a tradition that we do not want to lose. We're being more open-minded about the process,' said Administrative Vice Principal Dave Hildreth. 'We're trying to assess the need for all-school participation and taking a more in-depth process to choose to the best candidate to represent the Rose Festival and our school.'
Cabrera is now in the running to be crowned the Rose Festival queen, and the festivities, which include parades, races, and carnival rides, begin May 29.
Visit www.rosefestival.org for event details.