Six Ripon High School teens and two girls from Ripon Christian High School and a senior from Connecting Waters Charter School make up the court of Almond Blossom Queen candidates for the 2015 edition of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce event.
From Ripon Christian are Amanda Neeley and Aubrey Lien. Jenna O’Brien is a student at Connecting Waters Charter School. Also vying for the crown for the late February festival are Ripon High School students are Grasiela “Gracie” Franco-Carreno, Kylie Stevens, Sarah Hall, Daelynn Dabney, Mariah Rivera and Kaitlynn Batterton. Their ages range from 16 to 18 years old.
The candidates met with chamber of commerce Queen Bee Lauren Bitters and other officials last week to hear of their upcoming schedule that will ready the young ladies to prepare for the traditional annual contest. They will meet again in January for etiquette training including how to walk stand and present themselves to the community.
The candidates are also expected to attend a Ripon Rotary Club meeting as well as the Ripon Soroptimists’ Club where they will speak to club members about the competition that includes a speech contest and a fashion show.
Amanda Neeley, 16, hopes to attend a college in either Georgia or Tennessee with a major in Social Work and a minor in Human Services or Special Education. She sees herself as adventurous, empathetic and very honest. Amanda has been on the Ripon Christian High School for the past three years. She has been part of several mission trips in foreign countries.
Aubrey Lien, 17, says she intends to major in Communications at a yet to be determined college or university.
“My absolute dream is to be involved with FOX News, Lien said. “While in college, I want to intern at a local news station or radio station.”
Jenna O’Brien, 18, is first planning to attend Modesto Junior College where she hopes to gain a degree in Fire Science, going on to obtain a teaching credential. O’Brien hopes to be able to substitute teach on her off days as a firefighter.
Gracie Franco-Carreno, 17, plans to attend San Francisco State University to pursue a creative writing career to become a writer since writing is her passion. She also hopes to become an iIllustrator to give more depth to her writing skills.
Kylie Stevens, 17, has already been accepted at St. Mary’s College in Moraga and obtained a scholarship for the rowing team after graduation from high school. Her intended major is either Communications or Kinesiology. She plans to become a firefighter and sees herself as encouraging, motivated and cheerful. Her grandfather the late Richard Stevens was once the principal of Ripon High.
Sarah Hall, 17, said her aspiration is to become an Occupational Therapist. Hall wants to major in kinesiology and work toward her masters in Occupational Therapy. She said JROTC has served her well in improving her public speaking skills. Other school organizations have helped he to be more creative, she noted.
Daelynn Dabney, 17, said she hopes to major in Psychology and become a psychologist or psychiatrist in the U.S. Army.
“I would like to work with veterans suffering with PTSD or children who have had a difficult childhood,” she said.
Mariah Rivera, 17, hopes to attend either U.C. Santa Cruz or Washington State. Mariah’s intended majors are International Business and or Computer Engineering.
“I would like to work for different companies designing websites and create different softwares,” Rivera said.
She sees herself as amiable, ambitious and venturesome.
Kaitlynn Batterton, 17, is currently enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and plans to leave for basic training next September. She is hoping to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.
“There I will study a foreign language and train to become an Airborne Crypto Linguist,” she said.
After 20 years she plans to join NATO using her language skills for business or to battle terror related incidents throughout the world.
The Almond Blossom queen candidates will join in another tradition by selling thousands of raffle tickets at $1 each. Ticket sales will also be part of their judging toward the crown.