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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421
Jesse Burns
Soul Connolly
Jade Ellenberger
Sabrina Leighton
Poppy Lightfoot

Cherry Days royalty to be crowned July 4

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Coronation of royalty for the 73rd Cherry Days festival will be held July 4 at 12:15 p.m., immediately following opening ceremonies, in the gazebo at Paonia Town Park.

The king and queen will each receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Cherry Days Committee. Other royalty nominees will each receive a check for $150.

Candidates for Cherry Days queen are:

Jade Ellenberger

Jade, the daughter of Tanner Ellenberger, plans to study environmental sustainability at Colorado State University. "I have always been an advocate for environmental health," she said in her application. "I feel that creating a healthier planet is just embedded into my personality."

Jade is described as a hardworking young adult who has developed strength and perseverance to not only get through the rigors of high school, but also work two jobs and support her family in the absence of a mother.

Language arts teacher Kreszenze Allen recognizes Jade has been an inspirational and pivotal part of her younger siblings' lives. On top of her family obligations, Jade has pushed herself to be her personal best through active and dedicated participation in sports and challenging academics.

Jade participated in PHS Swing Choir and was accepted into honor choirs hosted by both Western Colorado University and University of Colorado Boulder. She ran cross country for the Eagles, participated in the Youth Outdoor Network and took on a leadership role on the Executive Student Council.

"I have always represented my school as a leader and role model, and I want to do the same for my community," Jade said. "As a representative of the Cherry Days Royalty Scholarship, I will be a leader for the youth in the community and contribute the knowledge I acquire in college to our town."

Sabrina Leighton

Sabrina, the daughter of Kim Leighton and Steve Leighton, is headed to the University of Colorado Boulder with aspirations to earn her doctorate in physical therapy.

"Both my father and my brother are physical therapists," she wrote in her scholarship applicaton. "I have always admired their dedication to the health and wellness of others and a passion for the field of medicine has struck significantly within myself. Just as they do in their everyday lives, I aspire to aid in the recovery of others."

Sabrina moved to Paonia when she was in the sixth grade and has flourished in the friendly, tight-knit community.

"The community that I have now come to call my home, my family, has pushed me out of my shell, has given me the confidence to truly be myself. If I had not left Delta, I would still be a shy little girl. I hold this town so dearly in my heart, I would be honored and grateful if I get the chance to represent Paonia during Cherry Days."

PHS teacher Kreszenze Allen describes Sabrina as a "quiet leader" who can identify what needs to be done on her own, and has the initiative to go do it with quality and attention to detail.

Sabrina was an outstanding thrower on the Eagles' track and field team. She managed the girls' basketball team and served as senior class secretary.

Poppy Lightfoot

Poppy, the daughter of Ali and Nolan Lightfoot, plans to attend Colorado Mesa University. An opportunity to work with third grade students at Paonia Elementary School fueled a passion to pursue a career in early childhood education. She would also like to work with students with special needs.

"I can't wait to become a teacher for our future generation, and help build strong, independent individuals," she said.

At Paonia High School, she was involved in choir and athletics. She earned numerous awards in volleyball, basketball and track and field, all while maintaining strong grades. Language arts teacher Kreszenze Allen notes Poppy's love of learning, which sets her apart from other students. "She does not do assignments for the grade, she focuses on growth and long-term learning, which is so refreshing from the perspective of a teacher."

Beyond Poppy's positive impact on Paonia High School is her willingness to invest in her community. Allen said Poppy selflessly shares her talents and her gifts with those around her.

"I've always known how special this place is -- the beautiful mountains, the orchards that hug the land, the little radio station that's always awake even when we're not, how full the gym gets when there's some type of game. No doubt, it's an honor to live here. As far back as I can remember, I would admire the Cherry Days royalty as they went by in the parade ... I would be nothing but honored to continue to represent the town of Paonia."

Jesse Burns

Jesse is the son of Scott and Kitty Burns. He will attend Colorado Mesa University and while he's undecided about his future career, knows he wants to make a difference.

Sports exercise science, photography/film and special education are three fields of study he finds of great interest.

"Being an athlete opened my eyes to the magic of what some time in the weight room can do to one's physique and performance, thus the interest in exercise science. Photography and film I have been interested in since I was a kid. I would take photos and make short movies with my friends. Special education hits deeper with me, for I have a 24-year-old brother with Down syndrome. Without a doubt, he has opened my eyes to the bigger perspective of life and has defined what success truly looks like. He is the reason I want to continue my education and to give back -- with whatever field I ultimately choose.

"One of my biggest goals and aspirations for college, after college, and for the future is to give back ­-- and I feel that I would be a good applicant to represent the town of Paonia during Cherry Days because I am what this town is about. Giving back is what life is about."

As class president for three years and student body co-president his senior year, Jesse had many opportunities to give back through community involvement. He also participated in Swing Choir and lettered in football, wrestling and track.

Soul Connolly

Soul, the son of Lea Petmezas, plans to study elementary education at CMU.

PHS teacher William Forrest has had an opportunity to see Soul grow as a student and as a person over the past four years. "In my classes Soul has demonstrated initiative, leadership and a willingness to learn," Forrest wrote in a letter of recommendation. "Soul has a combination of initiative and passion that defines his work and everything that he does."

Outside of the classroom, Soul has demonstrated leadership in academics, student government and sports. He played football all four years of high school and participated in wrestling, basketball and swing choir. He celebrated two baseball state championships with his teammates. As a senior, he served as co-president of Executive Student Council.

He takes a great deal of pride in the hours he put in as a teacher's aide for P.E. students in grades 3-6.

From that experience, Soul has determined he would love to teach third or fourth grade "because I believe it is when you have the biggest impact on a child's behavior."

As a young man who has been recognized as a key role model for students of all ages, Soul said he would be ecstatic to represent the town as Cherry Days king.

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