Portland Rose Festival: What It Means To Mentor a Court Princess

The Portland Rose Festival occupies a special place in Lori Williams’ heart.

Every year growing up, she’d race her brother and sister into the car to get to the Family Fun Festival and go on all the rides.

She’d make an appointment to settle in front of the TV before they announced the selections for Rose Festival Court Princesses.

She’d salute our servicemen and women during Fleet Week and gaze awestruck at the electric colors streaming through the Starlight Parade.

Now a Business Development Officer at Unitus with two high school-age daughters of her own, the Portland Rose Festival holds a deeper resonance. And now that Unitus is sponsoring the Rose Festival Princess Court, she has an opportunity to extend this fondness into her mentorship of today’s princesses.

Entering her second year as a princess mentor, Lori will share this special experience with David Douglas High School’s Alanesia Vang.

As they begin this new chapter together, Lori describes what the festival means to her, what surprises her about these special young women, and what anyone looking to succeed in life should keep in mind.

What does the Portland Rose Festival represent to you?

LW: I was born and raised in Portland, so the Rose Festival has a lot of meaning for me and has been a big part of my life, especially my childhood.

The Rose Festival holds great memories for me. When I was younger, my Dad worked evenings so my Mom would load myself, my brother, my sister and a couple of our neighborhood friends into our car and we would go down to the Family Fun Festival before it opened to the public.

We were really lucky to get family passes which gave us free unlimited rides – we would not have been able to go without these! This is one of my favorite things that we did growing up and every year we looked forward to enjoying the rides and all the people who would come out.

When I was younger I always wanted to be a princess! Growing up, I remember eagerly watching the news to find out who the next princess was, and who would be crowned the Queen in the end.

In my twenties the Rose Festival took on a new meaning when I started working downtown! The Festival always started the summer off and it was the best time to be downtown and have the most fun with all the visitors.

The Family Fun Festival, the Rose Gardens up at Washington Park, the Navy Ships arriving, and my favorite – the Starlight Run and the Starlight Parade. A week of celebrating and tradition. Although my mom is no longer with us, every year when the Family Fun Festival starts I am thankful for those memories we had together.

“At the end of your life, it is your character that touches people’s lives and will leave a legacy that lives on in your name.”

Who is your princess mentee this year and which accomplishment of hers stands out most to you?

LW: My Princess this year is Alanesia (AL- ah-nee-zhah) (Ally) Vang from David Douglas High School.

We met at the princess selection ceremony and although I haven’t been able to spend too much time with her yet, I am highly impressed at her career plans to become a Pediatric Oncologist.

One of her many honors that stands out to me is her receiving a Residency Award from Health Science Academy. I can say from my limited experience that Ally has four much younger siblings who were also at the selection ceremony, and you can tell that she is a great older sister. Her younger siblings (all girls) adore and love their sister.

What surprised you most about the Portland Rose Festival Court last year?

LW: What surprised me most was how brilliant these young ladies are. They have each achieved so much already at this young stage of their lives.

These ladies have come from so many different backgrounds and life experiences to become the outstanding young women they are today.

I was highly impressed with how self-motivated these ladies were as well as their determination to go through this process to become a Rose Festival Princess. They are an amazing group of young women!

What are you most looking forward to about the Rose Festival Court this year?

LW: I love the Job Shadow and the Friends and Family Reception. It gives me as a mentor an opportunity to connect more personally with my princess, and to learn about her unique story and the family members who helped support her to reach where she is today.

What does it mean to be a mentor to one of these princesses?

LW: It is an honor, first and foremost! Although I was mentoring her, I feel like I may have gained more from the experience than my fabulous princess Tiffany Nguyen last year.

She was such an amazing young lady! I felt privileged to be Tiffany’s mentor and have her share with me so much of her life history.  

I was amazed at how phenomenal she is as a student, community member and human being. She currently is attending Concordia College to pursue her nursing degree. Tiffany will have a great impact on the lives she encounters and will touch this world in such a positive way.

That is not something you typically can see or say about an 18-year-old. To be in a position where I can share some of my own wisdom gained with these bright princesses is truly a one-of-a-kind privilege.

What was your favorite part of being a princess mentor?

LW: My favorite thing was probably the job shadow. With some help, I was able to coordinate for Tiffany a tour of Gresham Legacy Hospital with three nurses as well as Dr. Calcagno with Gresham Pediatrics.

During the visit, Tiffany was invited to ask questions and learn about the duties and demands of life as a Pediatrician. (Thank you to Julie Reed at Gresham Legacy Hospital for your support!).

There was so much value in the job shadow with the nurses. Each had at least 15 years of nursing experience and all three had different perspectives to share.

We learned about their schedules and how that affected their family lives, what they like most about pediatrics and what is most challenging.

They taught Tiffany ways to balance family life with work and how to seek out growth opportunities in their careers. I felt like Tiffany walked away with a lot of valuable information that reinforced her decision to go into nursing.

What advice would you give high school students looking to excel in school, community, and life?

LW: My best advice is this: live fully and be true to yourself. Surround yourself with the people who bring positivity to your life and see the value you bring to this world.

Understand what resilience is and build it throughout your life.

Make sure to say Thank You! These two words are universal and will get you far in life!

Read and seek out positive quotes. Live life experiences and keep your mind growing – this will shape your character.

At the end of your life, it is your character that touches people’s lives and will leave a legacy that lives on in your name.

Posted By: Jacob Schnee

About the Author: Jacob joined Unitus as Marketing Specialist in March 2015 and transitioned to Marketing Communications Specialist in March 2017.

His experience has spanned hospitality, business development, consulting, and marketing in various industries along the east coast, west coast and in between.

When he is not developing internal and external communications for Unitus, he is engaging in recreational fitness, studying personality types and exploring the outdoors with his wife and dog.

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