LINO LAKES — Three new ambassadors are ready to improve their public speaking skills, strengthen friendships and represent their community.

Three judges — Rhonda Sivarajah, Samantha Rawleigh and Maddie Simon — selected Amelia Phommady, Claire McArdle and Kailey Groess (out 14 candidates) as 2020 Miss Lino Lakes Ambassadors at the 16th annual coronation held Aug. 18 at Centennial Middle School. Alicia Koehnen was voted by her peers as Miss Congeniality.

The Miss Lino Lakes Ambassador Program was established in 2004 as part of Blue Heron Days. The program's mission is to support the development of young women in Lino Lakes and surrounding areas (Circle Pines, Centerville, Columbus Township and Lexington) through poise, scholarship and achievement. Candidates must be a junior in high school through age 22 as of May 20 (of the current year).

The individuals act as goodwill ambassadors representing the city of Lino Lakes at various parades, coronations, volunteer events and other functions throughout the state of Minnesota.


Amelia Phommady

Phommady, a senior at Centennial High School, is a member of the student council and plays bass clarinet and tenor saxophone in the wind ensemble, jazz band and woodwind choir. She spent the summer working as a gate attendant for Anoka County Parks.

After she heard great things about the program from her friend Emma Pierson, a 2019 ambassador, she decided to run. “She said it was a great program and you get to volunteer, and I like volunteering,” Phommady explained. “Really my only way that I could volunteer was through school, and I wanted to reach out more to the community and the people that don't go to Centennial.”

Throughout the candidacy process, Phommady enjoyed bringing smiles to people's faces and getting to know the other candidates. “I enjoyed making new friends and strengthening the friendships I have already had. I knew all the girls before, but we were not as close as we are now,” she said.

Even though she will participate hundreds of events this year, her favorite one so far was the Family Corn Roast in July. “That gave me a taste of what volunteering will actually be like throughout the program. I really loved it,” she said. She added that this was the best summer of her life.

Phommady looks forward to getting closer to the other two ambassadors as well as ambassadors from other communities. At next year's coronation, she hopes there will be a lot of candidates and that she will be better at public speaking and become more comfortable and less nervous when volunteering.

After graduation, Phommady wants to be a biomedical scientist and use her photography/cinematography skills to “spread awareness of the environment and open people's eyes to various cultures.”


Claire McArdle

McArdle is a senior at Centennial High School, where she is on the dance team and trap and skeet team. She also participates in the State High School Muskie Tournament.

“I wanted to be an ambassador to work on my public speaking and get more involved in the community and volunteer more,” she said.

So far, she has enjoyed seeing how close-knit the community is. McArdle's favorite event during her candidacy was the Family Corn Roast. “It was fun seeing everyone come together and seeing all the little kids enjoy being out with their families,” she said.

When Pierson put the crown on McArdle's head, she was surprised. “I really didn't expect it. There was so much anticipation because I could hear Emma Pierson's heels clicking behind me. I was really nervous,” she said. “It means so much to me that the selection committee believes in me and that everyone supports me and knows that I can do this.”

This year, McArdle is looking forward to making new friends across the state and attending festivals in other towns. After graduation, McArdle will study mechanical engineering. She is considering both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.


Kailey Groess

Groess, a senior at Centennial High School, is a member of the speech team, plays softball, plays clarinet in the band and manages the girls hockey team. During the summer she is a lifeguard at the Shoreview Community Center; in the winter she is a referee for Centennial Youth Hockey and also works concessions at Fogarty Arena in Blaine. She also spends time working for her father, who owns Custom Installations.

Groess was a member of the Chain of Lakes Rotary Exchange Program this past year. Her family hosted students from Japan and Italy and over the summer she spent three weeks in Italy.

“I wanted to (be an ambassador) for both the business experience and to become more social. While I can be a good public speaker, speaking one-on-one and in small groups is not my strong point,” she explained.

Groess said that during her candidacy, she enjoyed going to different events such as coronations in other towns and getting to know the other candidates, who she now considers “best friends.” Her favorite event so far has been Blue Heron Days.

The thing she is most looking forward to, in addition to all the events and festivals, is having little girls come up to her and lighting up when they try on her crown.

“I want to get more business experience,” Groess said. “I want to work on my public speaking skills —because I know those could use some work — and make friends with Claire and Amelia.”

One day, Groess hopes to manage a business and travel the world.


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or

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