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Where EAST meets the Northwest

PROUD PRINCESS. Keely Nguyen is seen with her family (left photo, from left — Keely, grandma Muoi, father Hoang, mother Kathy, and sister Kathleen) during a vacation in Mexico and with fellow teammates on the varsity tennis squad (right photo, from left — Taylor, Keely, Trinity, and Kathy). Nguyen is representing Franklin High School as its 2017 Rose Festival princess. The Portland Rose Festival’s Queen’s Coronation takes place Saturday, June 10 at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Photos courtesy of Keely Nguyen)

From The Asian Reporter, V27, #8 (April 17, 2017), page 12.

Community, school pride fuels Franklin Rose Festival princess

By Maileen Hamto
The Asian Reporter

Thriving in Franklin High School’s diverse and vibrant community, Portland Rose Festival princess Keely Nguyen is proud and excited to represent the east side in the 2017 Rose Festival court.

"I refuse to believe the claim that, ‘west side is the best side’ because people underestimate the variation of cultures displayed on the streets," Keely said. "I am prideful to admit that the districts of east Portland possess the liberality and tranquility that derive from the inclusiveness and uniqueness of the community members."

Franklin’s close-knit and supportive culture ensures that every student has a place to belong, Keely said. "Even though our community is small, we have so much to offer. We gather as a collective group to support and secure each other. No one should ever feel isolated. There are so many clubs and groups that we should never feel lonely because whether it’s a peer or a staff member, somebody is always there."

Keely honed her leadership skills early at Franklin. She was only a sophomore when she led a penny drive during a "Franklin High School Gives Back" fundraiser that collected more than $3,000 for the Franklin community.

"I was skeptical of my abilities as a leader before raising those funds. I didn’t think we’d collect that much," she said. "I was overjoyed with the results because I was doubtful I’d be able to handle the responsibilities of collecting bins, assigning jobs, and making sure things were running smoothly."

Beyond school pride, Keely also is a passionate cheerleader for east Portland’s community gems. If given the chance, she said she would take the entire Rose Festival Court to the Hawthorne District to experience unique foodie, cultural, and shopping experiences.

"Hawthorne is a welcoming neighborhood with a lively spirit; this energetic vibe will make anyone feel youthful again," she said. "From the collection of cute boutiques, vintage stores, and delicious restaurants and food carts, there is a wide range of entertainment and eateries. In the summer, people can truly celebrate and explore the local pizzazz through the Hawthorne Street Fair."

Closer to home, Keely is equally enthusiastic about sharing pride in her Asian-American upbringing. Growing up in a mixed Chinese and Vietnamese home, Keely is entrenched in the traditions from both sides of her family. She speaks fondly of family traditions during the Lunar New Year and other cultural celebrations and also relishes time spent at Buddhist temples all over Portland.

"Our traditions primarily emphasize the importance of respecting our elders and limiting self-interests. My dad cooks a variety of vegan food as sacrifices to our ancestors. We kneel, pray, and bow for hours … veneration of our deceased relatives will ensure our prosperity and health," she said.

"On Chinese New Year, we leave the house wearing new red clothes to provide an auspicious future. These celebrations are festive and exhilarating: people are dancing, eating, and socializing."

Bringing her full self to the Rose Festival court, the aspiring pediatrician is thrilled about the opportunity to share the unique experience of serving as a court princess with her peers from Portland-area high schools.

"I think this experience will allow me to mature and learn more about the important aspects of my community and explore Portland culture more," Keely said. "I believe this will deepen my values of how I feel about others so I can have a firmer hold on who I am as a person."

A Rose Festival princess represents her school and acts as the "face of the Rose Festival" at many events in the community, including parades, volunteer activities, luncheons with community and business leaders, and more. The Portland Rose Festival Foundation awards each court member a $3,500 scholarship, courtesy of The Randall Group. To qualify for the Rose Festival Court, a candidate must be a full-time junior or senior at a 4A, 5A, or 6A high school in Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas county and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. Potential princesses are evaluated on citizenship, scholastic achievement, school activities, civic involvement, volunteer projects, communication skills, and overall impression. The Portland Rose Festival Queen is chosen from all of the court members at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 10 from 8:30am to 9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <www.rosefestival.org>.

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