ALBANY, N.Y. -- A highly anticipated spring tradition continues this month when thousands of May flowers blossom into a sea of colors in Washington Park, just in time for the 65th annual Tulip Festival. Aside from the flowers, the crowning of this year's Tulip Queen highlights the Mother's Day weekend tradition.
After an extensive interview process of about 70 hopefuls, Mayor Jerry Jennings, the reigning Tulip Queen Emily Finnegan and the Court Selection Committee announced the chosen five finalists at in Corning Park Wednesday.
Based on the interviews, 12 semi-finalists were chosen to attend the Tulip Tea. At the Tea, the women were judged based on their interaction with their fellow semi-finalists and the committee. After a final interview with each semi-finalist, five finalists are chosen. Finalists are chosen based on their community service involvement, leadership skills and knowledge of Albany.
All five women will work together as a team throughout the year to develop various initiatives to promote literacy in the Capital Region.
During her year as Tulip Queen, the chosen young woman attends numerous events that focus on education and community awareness. She and her court also spend that year involved in volunteer projects, including Mayor Jennings' literacy training program, which strives to promote the value of reading to children.
One lucky lady will be crowned the 2013 Tulip Queen at an elaborate coronation ceremony at noon on Saturday, May 11 on the Lakehouse Amphitheater Stage in Washington Park. She will also receive a $5,000 scholarship.
The finalists are:
Kate Bender, Age 18, Slingerlands
Kate is a freshman Business major at Siena College. Through the Siena Bonner Service Leaders Program, Kate works as a recruitment and outreach intern for the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York. She helps teach English to local refugee students and volunteers as a Girl Scout leader. Kate is a co-host of WVCR's Change Makers radio program and is an active volunteer with the American Cancer Association, the Teresian House and Refugees & Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus. Kate is a part of the Siena College dance team and loves to spend time with her friends and family. As a 2013 Tulip Court member, Kate hopes to establish sustainable programs for the Mayor Jennings Literacy Campaign in order to empower local youth and help to create a close-knit community.
Meghan Cahill, Age 19, Albany
Meghan attends the College of Saint Rose, majoring in Social Work with a minor in Criminal Justice. She works as a teaching assistant for an after-school program at TSL Daycare and as a weekly respite worker for handicapped children. Meghan's volunteer experience includes tutoring students and working with the Capital District Lyme Disease Association, St. Peter's Hospital, Guilderland Pop Warner, Reach Out Saint Rose Day, the City Rescue Mission and Mater Christi School. Meghan enjoys exercising, cooking, baking, and spending time with her family and dog. As a member of the 2013 Tulip Court, her goals are to encourage children in the community to chase their dreams and to serve as a role model for young girls.
Gigi Diffenback, Age 21, Albany
Gigi is a senior at the College of Saint Rose, majoring in Childhood Education with a concentration in Earth Science. As a volunteer, Gigi traveled to New Orleans' lower Ninth Ward twice to aid in Hurricane Katrina efforts, assisted at co-ops and local gardens in Washington, DC, and worked with Christmas in Action in Spartansburg, South Carolina to repair homes of aging individuals. Locally, she's participated in Hurricane Irene relief, mentored at-risk youth at Help Yourself Academy and is involved in various projects with Saint Rose. Her hobbies include baking, singing and enjoying time with loved ones and animals. As a member of the 2013 Tulip Court, Gigi's goals are to promote the importance of the community's history and to create unity between residents of all ages.
Fendi Munoz, Age 21, Albany
Fendi is a University at Albany junior, studying Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice. She currently works as an intern in the office of Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya. Fendi has volunteered as an organizer for a series of NYU-sponsored workshops on topics concerning youth and women's issues. She has also participated in the University at Albany's Cinderella Project, working as a personal shopper to help underprivileged high school girls buy a dream dress for the prom. Fendi enjoys singing, acting, dancing, reading and spending time with friends. As a member of the 2013 Tulip Court, she hopes to inspire children to read and grow so that they can one day reach their dreams.
Alexis Osborne, Age 22, Watervliet
Alexis graduated from Saint John's University with a degree in Legal Studies and will begin the graduate law program at Albany Law School this fall. The American Bar Association recently certified her as a paralegal. Alexis has volunteered as a youth representative for the United Nations Partnership for Global Justice and interned with the Brooklyn Nets, working closely to help NBA players give back to the community. She has also volunteered her time as a tutor and with the Ronald McDonald House, Relay for Life and Midnight Run programs. Alexis enjoys playing softball, basketball and soccer, traveling and reading. As a member of the 2013 Tulip Court, she looks forward to promoting literacy by showing children that they can achieve their dreams through a solid education.