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Armed Forces Festival taps South Kitsap teen

t Melissa Stuart earns title of lead Ambassador.

By TRACEY COOPER

Bremerton Patriot

Port Orchard resident Melissa Stuart claimed top prize in the 2005 Armed Forces Festival Ambassadors program held Tuesday at the Bremerton Community Theatre.

“I can’t wait to represent everyone in the Armed Forces Day Parade,” Stuart said at the contest’s conclusion.

She attends South Kitsap High School and received numerous awards, her latest being a $1,500 scholarship as Lead Ambassador.

Stuart lettered in video production, Sign Language Choir and for Good Academic Standing. Melissa has played volleyball and fastpitch and is the president of her school’s Interact Club and Multi-Culture Club. She works at Papa Murphy’s Take ’n Bake Pizza.

Central Kitsap student Meghan Granito was awarded second place and given $700 scholarship. Granito’s speech centered around a Russian immigrant whose family came to the United States so that he could get an education.

Emily McKee and Senya Waas, both South Kitsap High School students, tied for third and were awarded $400 scholarships.

Central Kitsap high school student Kasey Gillespie won $100 for his essay “What Freedom Means to Me.”

Each of the remaining contestants — Cherie Cruz of Bremerton, Melissa Cruz of Poulsbo and Kasey Miller of Silverdale — received $100.

The Armed Forces Festival Ambassadors’ first public appearances will be at the Armed Forces Festival Luncheon at Tucker’s on May 17.

They are also scheduled to appear at the 57th Annual American Financial Solutions Armed Forces Day Parade on May 21 in downtown Bremerton and

Bremerton/Olympic Council of the Navy League’s dinner at the Admiral Theatre on May 21.

They will represent Bremerton at other parades and functions throughout the year.

The eight finalists were selected based on their academics, extra-curricular activities, community involvement, letters of recommendation and their essays.

At the event on Tuesday, they made a three-minute presentation based on an interview with a military veteran or a foreign-born national who became an American citizen. They also answered impromptu questions.

The students were also evaluated on their essays and personal interviews with a panel of judges.

Stuart interviewed her grandfather, a Palestinian who in 1958 came to the United States on a student visa. When he first arrived to New York, he recalls eating fruit cocktail, which he savored. He settled in San Francisco.

Many of the finalists selected family members to interview. Cherie Cruz chose her brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Antonio Cruz, 19, who recently returned from Iraq.

During the interview he said each country speaks by its actions and that America must also shape its image in the history

“Through this experience I know more about him than I ever thought I would,” she said.

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