2019 Orange Blossom Court members hope to give back to their community
By Nancy Vigran
Reporter for the Sun-Gazette
LINDSAY – One of the key components to the Orange Blossom Festival is the Queen and here Court. The Court is comprised of four high school seniors who have played an integral role in their school and the community of Lindsay.
This year the honors go to Asusena Cisneros, Mariana Lopez, Marina Ornelas, and McKaylie Caesar.
Seventeen-year-old Asusena Cisneros grew up in Lindsay. Shortly after her parents migrated to California from Mexico, Asusena was born. She is the eldest child in her family. She has grown up in the Lindsay school system and said she felt unnoticed through most of her high school years. Regardless of how she felt, she was indeed noticed.
“I was very surprised,” she said of her appointment to the court. “It is a humbling experience.”
Asusena grew up working in the fields on weekends with her parents. She found out it was hard work.
“I learned to be appreciative of all they have done for me,” she said.
She also developed a passion for education. She’s worked hard maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and ranks sixth in her graduating class.
“I have learned to be self-driven and keep my eye on the prize,” she said.
The prize is a college education. She has applied to no fewer than a dozen universities including UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara University, San Jose State, and UC Berkley. She’s already earned 23 college credits through the TRIO Upward Bound Program at College of the Sequoias.
Asusena plans on pursuing a major in English and earning a teaching credential. While she’d like a profession as a university professor, she’d also like to return to teach in Lindsay.
Her high school years have been involved with a variety of clubs as well as her classes. She is currently secretary for the Spanish Honors Society; she’s been a part of Lindsay’s Team Empower promoting her school’s educational system; and she’s been a part of the local Future Business Leaders of America chapter since her freshman year.
Asusena has volunteered in her community assisting one of her favorite elementary school teachers in the classroom, and she has worked as an assistant in the Migrant Education STARS after-school program.
Asusena has also found time for sports, lettering in tennis and swimming.
Mariana Lopez said being named to the Court is “a whole new experience,” and one she is relishing in.
“We get to dig deep into the roots of Lindsay,” she said.
Mariana is the youngest of four sisters, the other three of whom are at least 10 years her senior. It’s strongly influenced her life, she said, “Because I’ve been able to see and experience my siblings’ failures and successes.”
The girls grew up in the swap meet business in which their parents have worked for more than 35 years. Every week the family travels to LA in order to pick up supplies, and then throughout the week they attend several swap meets and farmers markets in the Valley selling their wares. It’s given her a good work ethic and helped with her language skills in both English and Spanish.
And while she wouldn’t mind opening up her own stand, she said, she intends to go to college to study Child Development and go into teaching. Her hope is to attend Cal State Sacramento.
“My goal is to apply for the TSL grant and hopefully come back to my hometown to teach in LUSD,” she said.
Sports have been a large part of her education having participated in volleyball, softball, and track. She was named Most Improved on her volleyball team in 2015, Volleyball Varsity Captain in 2018, and the Orosi Tournament Team MVP in 2018. She also volunteered her time as track manager.
Outside of sports, Mariana has been active in various high school clubs including the Spanish Honors Society and AVID. She is also involved in her community.
“I like looking at the background [in Lindsay] including the ‘L’ on the hill,” she said.
Marina Ornelas said she was “shocked” to learn of her appointment to the Court.
“It’s very humbling and honoring.”
Marina is the youngest of five siblings and feels she has learned from their experiences.
“I look up to my eldest sister Angela the most because all she’s accomplished, including graduating from college meanwhile facing many challenges along the way,” she said.
Through her high school years Marina has been involved in many campus activities and clubs including the National Spanish Honors Society, ASB, CSF, KEY Club, and the Not Ashamed Club which she helped establish.
“Every one of these clubs have influenced me in one way or another,” she said. “They pushed me to become more involved in not only my school but my community.”
She has earned various awards including Perfect Attendance 2015 and 2016, Most Outstanding Academic Achievement in Math 2015 and 2016, and Most Outstanding Academic Achievement in English 2017.
Marina plans to attend Fresno Pacific University through the TSL program with the goal to become an elementary school teacher. She, too, would like to return to her hometown of Lindsay and teach.
Her faith is also important to her, and she is strongly involved in her church. She volunteers at the local food bank and community events such as the Harvest Festival.
Marina has participated in high school and community athletics playing volleyball and softball with the accolades of Jr. Varsity Offensive Player of the Year for softball in 2016, Jr. Varsity Team Captain for softball in 2016, and Varsity Offensive Player of the Year for softball in 2018.
McKaylie Caesar’s ability to run for a lengthy time at a good pace is sending her to Cal State Fullerton in the fall. She has received an athletic scholarship to the school and will be participating at Level 1. Not that her grades have been anything to sneeze at. She’s got a 3.9 GPA and is graduating within the Top 10 of her class.
Her family moved to Lindsay when she was in the sixth grade because her parents, who both work in the local school district, valued Lindsay’s Student Centered Learning Environment.
McKaylie is very “success driven,” she said, both in sports and academia. She has taken four different AP courses which have challenged her to be a more rigorous learner, she said. She’s also been very active in sports having earned 11 varsity letters. Honors have included in being a part of the 1st Team All-State honors for Cross Country, four-time State Participant in Track and Cross Country, two-time Central Section (Valley) Champion, two-time Orange Belt Runner of the Year, four 1st Team ESL League Honors, five-time MVP for Cross Country and Track and Varsity Basketball Offensive Player of the Year.
On campus, she has also been involved in the National Spanish Honors Society, Team Empower (Lindsay Leads), Block L President, California Scholarship Federation and Associate Student Body (ASB).
McKaylie is very committed to youth. She has served as a Literacy Tutor for Elementary Learners and is committed to helping sustain the new found excellence of the LHS Track & Cross Country Program, she said. She has also mentored the Junior Cardinal Running Program “to inspire young runners that they too can achieve great things through hard work.”
McKaylie will be studying linguistics with the goal to become a speech pathologist. She’d like to return to her community of Lindsay “to help kids overcome obstacles and achieve their potential,” she said.
“My personal motto is ‘Champions are made in practice’ which reminds me daily that success is achieved through hard work and commitment to excellence.”
The OBF Court will attend all functions of the festival along with the Queen and continue to represent their community whenever possible throughout the year.