By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN When Kassandra Scherping set off to represent Winsted in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lake Scholarship Program July 19-23, she wasn’t expecting to come home with a crown.
“There were 56 girls; we were told to just be yourself, because it was unlikely to get picked,” she recalled.
Kassandra (daughter of Joann Scherping and the late Terry Scherping) took that advice, and she ended up not only having a great time at the competition, but was also selected as a 2017 Aquatennial princess.
She is the first person from Winsted to receive this honor, and will have the opportunity to represent the Aquatennial festival and Minneapolis throughout North America.
“I really loved being a Winsted Ambassador, and this was like taking it to the next step,” Kassandra said, explaining that she can now promote Winsted on a bigger scale.
During the Aquatennial competition, Kassandra gave two speeches and was interviewed four days in a row. She was nervous at first, but said her Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School experiences of being on stage for concert choir, dance, and drama helped put her at ease.
Some questions were trickier than others.
“You have to say the first thing that comes to your mind,” Kassandra said.
When she was asked “How have you inspired your community?” for example, Kassandra answered that she reads at the Winsted Public Library, and hopes to inspire children to continue reading as they get older.
Reading to children ties into Kassandra’s career goal, which is to become a special education teacher. This fall, she’ll be a sophomore at North Dakota State University studying human development and family science with elementary education and a special education endorsement.
Another question “Who inspires you?” gave Kassandra an opportunity to share how she chose her major.
“My little brother has Down syndrome, and that really pushed me toward a career in special education,” she said. “People with special needs teach you a lot of things you don’t even know you don’t know.”
For a question about her biggest accomplishment, Kassandra told judges that she received the Triple “A” award in high school, which recognizes students for achievements in academics, arts, and athletics. Time management skills to balance all three areas helped Kassandra make a smooth transition to college, and she was on the dean’s list both semesters of her freshman year.
In one of the interviews, Kassandra was presented with a hypothetical scenario. She was told that she was representing Aquatennial at a coronation, but her escort was sick so she had to introduce herself and give an impromptu speech.
“They said sometimes you might be at an event and not expect to speak,” Kassandra said, explaining that it’s always good to be prepared.
During the final interview, Kassandra was asked what she’d take away from the Aquatennial experience, if she were not crowned.
For Kassandra, that question was easy.
“I formed a lot of friendships, and got to know people from communities far away that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she said.
Kassandra said she also gained public speaking skills and confidence.
“The other candidates were open and welcoming,” she said. “Everyone was helping each other with their speeches, and giving tips to each other.”
Cassie Thielen of Granite Falls was also crowned an Aquatennial princess July 23, and Carolyn Meyer of Northfield was selected as the 2017 Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes. Jim Ganger of St. Paul and Sarah Schrader of Red Wing were chosen as Aquatennial captains, and Dan Stoltz of Lino Lakes was named Aquatennial commodore.
The Aquatennial crew completes about 300 appearances at local and international festivals and other community events. At the end of their year of service, the girls each receive educational scholarships provided by the Aquatennial Ambassador Organization (AAO).