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Blake Benson
Emily Pieper
Dagan Rienks
Colby Simpson
Brittney Thliveris
Courtney VanVleet

Cherry Days royalty to be crowned July 4

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Coronation of royalty for the 71st Cherry Days festival will be held July 4 at 12:15 p.m., at the Howard Berkman Stage in Paonia Town Park.

The king and queen will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Cherry Days Committee. Other royalty nominees will each receive a check for $100.

Candidates for Cherry Days queen are:

Brittney Thliveris

Brittney is the daughter of Paul Thliveris and Colleen Thliveris. This fall she plans to study criminology at Dixie State University. "I have always been fascinated with criminal investigation and the psychology behind criminal offenders," writes Brittney. "By continuing my education with this career path I will be able to help the innocent and bring people to justice." She also aspires to travel the world and to help others.

Brittney participated in softball and basketball and managed the basketball, track and field and baseball teams. She is a member of swing choir and drama club, and was named "most outstanding history student" three years in a row. Her family grows fruit in the Paonia area and she grew up, "picking fresh, juicy fruit right off the trees in my back yard."

Brittney's community service includes serving breakfast at the annual BMW Rally, teaching kids the basic skills of softball, helping younger students with research papers, and babysitting for her church. A lifeguard at the North Fork Pool and water safety instructor aid, she has taught young children swimming and pool safety.

In his recommendation letter, social studies teacher William Forrest said Brittney "is driven, hard working, and has an understanding of who she is... She does not allow others to sway her opinion simply to fit in, but is also respectful of others' beliefs and opinions."

Courtney VanVleet

Courtney is the daughter of Matthew and Tennille VanVleet. "I am a good-hearted person and I love the town I grew up in," writes Courtney in her application. This fall she will pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing at Brigham Young University -- Idaho, with an emphasis on either neonatal or emergency room nursing. "I have always had a love for people and I believe going into nursing will help grow my love," writes Courtney.

She participated in cross country, basketball, track and field and drama, and was class secretary for four years. Courtney volunteers for her church in many areas, and was a student tutor. She has volunteered at the local nursing home and the BMW Rally breakfast, the North Fork Ambulance barn, and for numerous school fundraisers including the Wounded Warrior Dodge Ball tournament and Pink Night volleyball for HopeWest.

"I have admired Courtney's dedication, her work ethic, and her superior application of skills outside of our school," writes language arts teacher Kreszenze Kossler-Allen. In spending "countless hours" working with local businesses, "Courtney has learned to be incredibly flexible with her skills and her time management... I enjoy every moment that I spend with this kind, hard working, contagiously enthusiastic young lady."

Emily Pieper

Emily is the daughter of Lori Marek and John Pieper. Beginning this fall she will major in nursing and minor in religious studies while playing volleyball at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania.

Last fall Emily partnered with her church, Saddle Mountain Fellowship in Crawford, to take a mission trip to Ghana, Africa. "It turned out to be an incredible awakening, an eye-opening experience, to say the least," writes Emily. "While I was in Ghana, I became aware of the disadvantages that the children encounter on a daily basis and I was both humbled and grateful for the high quality education system that I have been blessed with... I see the world as limitless and I am excited to see what my future holds."

Emily participated in choir, dance and theater, and was a four-year student government member and junior and senior class vice president. She also participated in volleyball, basketball and track and was outstanding female athlete of the Class of 2017.

"More than once, I have wished that more of my students completed assignments, big and small, with the same dedication... attention to detail... and consistently high level of expectation as Emily," writes language arts teacher Kreszenze Kossler-Allen.

Emily is "always choosing challenging classes and striving for excellence," writes PHS science teacher Tracy Campbell. "I know that Emily will be successful in earning her college degree and will make the most out of her education."

Candidates for Cherry Days king are:

Blake Benson

The son of Dave and Tammie Benson, Blake will pursue a mechanical engineering degree at South Dakota School of Mines, and would like to one day work in aviation. "My dreams from childhood have been to work for the airplane manufacturer, Boeing," writes Blake. He will also consider other opportunities as they arise, if they offer "an exciting new step that will offer me a chance to broaden my horizons and better myself to become a contributing member of society."

In addition to participating in football and track, Blake was co-class president in 2016-2017, was a member of the Knowledge Bowl team, and volunteered for the Paonia Lions Club and at Paonia Elementary School. He also maintains his SCUBA diving certification, and has made extra money raising chickens and selling eggs.

"It is heartwarming to come across a young man like Blake who believes it is important to earn his own way and has worked fulltime over the summer," writes Paonia Elementary School teacher and Lions Club member Bob Bushta. Blake was instrumental in organizing his class last summer to assist the Lions with the annual BMW Rally, and has stepped in to assist the Lions Club during Cherry Days. "His youth, enthusiasm, and endurance have time and again ensured the success of the Lions Club fundraising efforts."

Dagan Rienks

The son of Scott and Kelly Rienks, Dagan will attend Colorado Mesa University, where he plans to study in a math- or science-related field and play football for the Mavericks. Dagan was co-salutatorian of his class. As a four-year, three-sport athlete he won numerous awards in football and basketball. He was captain of the basketball team for three years.

"I take great pride in being a leader both in the classroom and on the athletic field," writes Dagan. In everything he does, "I always, to the best of my ability, represent my family, community, and my school."

Dagan carried the highest grade in his Advanced Placement (college level) biology class, and is also a strong student in math and science, writes science teacher Tracy Campbell. "Dagan has many accolades in his athletics," but his true asset is as a captain. "He is a great leader and role model. He has set an example for those around him to always work hard, to go the extra step to do better, and to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on mistakes. These are traits that young adults need to learn to be successful adults... I know he will be an asset to any institution, team, job or community."

Colby Simpson

The son of Dirk Simpson and Barbara Polson, Colby was class valedictorian and recipient of the prestigious Rockwell Cup for outstanding character, leadership, scholastic ability and volunteer service, as voted on by the student body. He plans to pursue a degree in business finance at the University of Northern Colorado and minor in either psychology or marketing management.

"I have been raised by not only my parents but also my incredibly loving and supporting town," writes Simpson. "While you must go wherever job opportunities exist, ideally I would love to move from Greeley to a smaller community following graduation."

Colby was a four-year athlete in football, basketball and baseball, class treasurer for three years, and student body president his senior year. He has volunteered as a peewee football referee, for numerous American Legion fundraisers, the Wounded Warriors, Ute Trails Car Club, and the Hillman House.

"The maturity that Colby has demonstrated in his sports leadership carries over to the classroom," writes language arts teacher Kreszenze Kossler-Allen. She tells her young son at basketball games to observe how Colby, the point guard, "...always watches for opportunities to provide the assist to a fellow player before shooting himself; the balance Colby provides between scoring and assisting is truly admirable." In the classroom, "Consistent quality is the descriptor of Colby's work, and I see this consistency as evidence of Colby's true nature."

Read more from:
North Fork
Cherry Days, Paonia
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