As Emma Pierson, Molly Nhean and Alex Lombard spoke of their experiences as Lino Lakes ambassadors throughout the last year, two themes emerged time and time again: growth and confidence.
The young women appeared before the Lino Lakes City Council at its July 22 meeting for a final presentation, as their reign concludes in the middle of August. They shared their accomplishments and favorite memories and thanked the council, business sponsors and the ambassador program’s voluntary leadership team for their support.
They also reflected on how the experience impacted them.
“A little over a year ago, if you would have met me, you would have met a shy, nervous, and unconfident girl,” said Pierson. “But now look at me. I waited 18 years to gain self-confidence, and I finally have, thanks to the Lino Lakes ambassador program.”
As community representatives and advocates, the young women knew how
large an impact they had both in Lino Lakes and across Minnesota. But as they shared their experiences in greater depth after the meeting, they emphasized how being ambassadors had changed them.
More than princesses
Since she was younger, Pierson had wanted to sit on floats during parades just like the “princesses” she saw.
“I soon learned that the (ambassador) program was much more than being a princess,” she said, recalling how the program involves many volunteering and public speaking opportunities.
According to the program’s Facebook page, the program’s mission is “empowering young women to become confident leaders through mentorship, volunteerism and educational scholarships.” The program aims to fulfill this mission through opportunities to improve professional skills, volunteer at civic events and through nonprofit organizations and represent Lino Lakes at city events and beyond. After completing the program, each ambassador can earn a maximum of $1,000 in postsecondary education scholarships.
Amid this broad mission, when Pierson became a candidate, she focused on improving herself, as she recalled that she was “super shy” growing up. “(Being an ambassador) definitely helped make me come out of my shell and be a better speaker …. I definitely grew a lot.”
Nhean said that one focus of the ambassador program is “growing for yourself” and that the growth experience is one reason why young women initially join the program.
Nhean also said that she was inspired by the program’s emphasis on volunteering, as she is an active volunteer herself, especially at Alexandra House, a shelter in Blaine for those who have endured sexual and domestic violence.
Lombard also enjoys volunteering (especially as an EMT) and said that volunteering was her main reason for joining the program. “I love the idea of volunteering and being so heavily engrossed and involved in other people’s growth.”
Meanwhile, Nhean and Lombard also gave credit to the ambassador program for helping enhance their confidence. “I definitely grew in confidence …. and presenting myself how I want and how I truly feel I am,” Nhean said. Even as a candidate during the program’s eight-week candidacy period, which can be likened to auditions for the position, she felt that she had grown immensely in her communication and networking skills.
During the city council presentation, Lombard spoke to how so much growth can take place in just one year. She gave credit to the support of the city council, business sponsors, the program’s voluntary leadership team and this coming year’s candidates. The combined support from these groups, she said, “truly makes a lasting impact and instills the leadership and legacy of empowerment in women in our society.”
Continuing the mission
Though their reign is ending, Pearson, Nhean and Lombard plan to continue working towards the ambassador program's mission.
They are currently applying to represent Lino Lakes at the Minneapolis Aquatennial candidacy program, which will take place during Aquatennial Week in 2020. Only one of the women will be selected for the candidacy program, and thereby spend the coming year preparing for the event, which invites former ambassadors throughout Minnesota to participate in the selection process to become Aquatennial ambassadors. Aquatennial ambassadors spend a year representing the Minneapolis festival nationwide.
The three also have alternative plans if they are not selected for the candidacy program. They all wish to continue their volunteer work and otherwise serve communities. Nhean will continue work with organizations such as Alexandra House. Pierson wants to open a medical clinic in Haiti through Doctors Without Borders, and Lombard hopes to join the Air Force.
Meanwhile, Nhean and Pierson will begin their postsecondary education at Mankato State and Bethel respectively. Lombard will continue studying general education at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
But, before their reign ends, the women will hand off their tiaras to next year’s ambassadors at the ambassador coronation. The event will take place 3 p.m. Sunday, August 18, at Centennial Middle School. Meanwhile, the candidates applying to be next year’s ambassadors are undergoing an eight-week candidacy program of their own.
Nhean said that even if candidates are not selected to be ambassadors, they should still be “open-minded” and appreciate the experiences they gain, as the candidacy program is a shortened version of the ambassador year and gives candidates an idea of what the ambassador experience is like.
Lombard gave the following advice to prospective candidates: “Embrace every moment …. Time truly does fly, and you have to remind yourself to be grateful for any opportunities that you have had.”