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Stella Lang: Accomplished Early Grad, Legacy Strawberry Festival Princess

Stella Lang, one of this year’s Strawberry Festival Princesses, was born and raised in Lebanon and grew up admiring the princesses who came before; now it’s her turn.

Lang, whose mother Becky Lang was a Strawberry Festival Princess in 1998, said she wanted to be a princess since she was little, as she grew up playing dress-up in her mom’s princess dresses and tiaras. She said other princesses inspired her too, including babysitters and friends from church. Lang packed on extracurriculars like debate team and teaching herself to play both piano and guitar, building a substantial resume while also graduating at 16 to get a head start on her nursing career.

“When I decided to take the opportunity of graduating early, I thought that (being a princess) would completely be off the table because I wouldn’t be a senior anymore,” Lang said. “I was pretty upset. I was like, ‘I feel like I’ve kind of been working my whole life for this.’”

The committee made an exception for Lang though, given her age, accomplishments and unique circumstances as a homeschooler who graduated early. Now she gets to see kids’ “eyes light up” when Princess Stella walks into the room.

“I’m always excited when I meet little kids that are homeschooled and I’m like, ‘I’m homeschooled too!’ because there haven’t been very many homeschooled princesses,” Lang said. “It’s very exciting to give representation.”

At Linn-Benton Community College, where Lang is already working on her nursing degree, she takes part in the acapella group as a singer and social media manager, the Alpha Club where people can have coffee and conversations, and Campus 180, a Christian discipleship club.

“I’m very proud of my ability to be able to talk to adults and have engaging conversations; I consider myself to be a good public speaker,” Lang admitted. “I’m also very proud of singing and where I’ve gone with music, so it’s definitely an area of my life that I put a lot of effort into that brings me a lot of joy.”

In addition to clubs and extracurriculars, Lang was a staff member at a leadership school where she learned about communications and how government works. Lang also has her CNA license and works several days per week at a long term care and hospice center in Lebanon.

“Healthcare is something that I’m super passionate about; I really like getting to take care of people right now,” Lang explained. “My role is loving on people’s grandmas and grandpas, and I think that’s so special that I get to do that.”

Lang was also trained as a dental assistant at Adam Kirkpatrick Family Dentistry and had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania with Dr. Kirkpatrick. She said she would love to return someday and hopefully climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I definitely could see myself going back there. Being in East Africa two years ago with Dr. Adam was a really cool experience,” Lang said. “The village that we stayed in for 10 days is in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

Lang hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Phoenix (and potentially a doctorate). Lang would like to be a mother someday, and said she feels called to work on YWAM (Youth With A Mission) ships, which are cruise ships that have been converted to hospitals.

“That’s one of the main pushes for me to become a nurse; what really inspired me was the idea of getting to work on a boat and get to travel around the world and help people for free,” Lang explained. “Especially because those ships go to places that can’t be reached by plane or foot. And being a mom…I’d love to make more little humans who can be good in the community and do good things for the world.”

Lang said her parents are her heroes; her dad, Jonah Lang, is a captain firefighter in Clackamas County, and her mom homeschooled Lang and her siblings, older sister Adrianne, who works at a Bible school in Amsterdam, and younger sister Charlotte, who loves graphic design and art. Lang said she grew up hiking and surfing all over the world and she and her family have traveled extensively, including a visit to Australia, where Lang had the chance to visit the Steve Irwin Zoo, and Italy.

“My family has been very nomadic throughout my life; I’ve been to eight different countries and that’s definitely something that I like to continue to do,” Lang said. “And I also am very passionate about Lebanon and my community and being active in my community. I do a lot with my church, like the toy distribution every year and Christmas, Sunday school, food bank, that kind of stuff as well.”

According to Lang, she got to see her dad in action when someone get into a car accident on their property and had to be flown out by helicopter.

“Seeing my dad in action as a firefighter and a paramedic was super inspirational, especially as someone who’s in the healthcare field myself as a nursing assistant, and just seeing him made me feel so safe,” Lang explained. “The fact that he was willing to put his safety at risk and thinking about how he would literally give his life for me, but not even just for me he would for you and anybody else. That’s the heart of the fire service and it’s very inspirational to me and I really aspire to be like him as a healthcare provider.”

According to Lang, some of her favorite parts of being a part of the Strawberry Festival court are visiting nursing facilities and schools, and giving back to the community. She described Lebanon as “close-knit” and the perfect size, even as the city has begun to grow.

“I am just so grateful to be here; I feel like I am making my five-year-old self so happy, really fulfilling a lot of dreams,” Lang said. “I feel like the court has evolved a lot recently and the role of strawberry princess is getting a lot more meaningful. And so it’s really amazing to get to be a part of something that’s so dynamic.”

Some of Lang’s favorite parts of the festival include the community-wide church service, and the parade, where her dad drives his classic cars and, this year, she will get to ride on the official float.

“It’s the city that friendliness built, right? I feel like I always go back around to that when people ask me about Lebanon,” Lang said. “And the festival is 115 years old, so I think something special about the Strawberry Festival is that it’s really stood the test of time.”

Lang said it’s “surreal” and an “honor” to be a princess and, as much as she enjoyed the tiaras and pretty dresses, it’s important to her to be “approachable” and deserving of the title regardless of whether or not she’s wearing the tiara.

“I really want to give people the very best experience and represent the court and Lebanon to the very best of my ability,” Lang explained. “As happy as the role makes me, I really do take it seriously and I don’t take it lightly.”