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Strawberry Princess Empowers Lebanon’s Girls Through Representation

Jannah Jimenez sees beyond the tiaras and gowns that come with being a Strawberry Festival Princess; she looks at the role as a chance to empower girls.

“The five princesses (bring) something like women’s empowerment,” Jimenez said. “To me, like, it’s just like I said growing up, ‘Wow, I want to be just like them.”’

Jimenez, who was born in Salem and raised in Lebanon and Scio, grew up going to the Strawberry Festival and parade with her parents and two brothers every year. Now she gets to keep the traditions alive as part of the newest era of Strawberry Princesses.

“It’s different once you grow up, you know, because you get to be part of it to recreate that memory for kids or for the community,” Jimenez explained. “I think a memory that stuck for me, too, was in the third or like fifth grade; (the Strawberry Princesses) would come to our school, and sign the cards like we do now. I think I still have those cards too.”

Jimenez said it’s inspiring to see five teen girls have an impact on their community and she’s enjoyed getting to know the other girls better. She went to school with all but one of the other princesses and they’ve connected over sports and class senator positions.

“I think my most favorite thing is probably getting to know every single one of us,” Jimenez said.

As someone who grew up speaking Spanish at home, Jimenez said a big part of the reason she wanted to be a princess in the first place was to provide representation.

“(The reason) I want to become a princess is also to inspire other Hispanics, or any culture, to be a princess,” Jimenez said. “You can be from any culture, you can be any ethnicity, and you can be part of it; I feel like I can impact a lot of little girls.”

Jimenez told the story of a little boy she met on one of her visits to a school as Strawberry Festival Princess who accidentally greeted her in Spanish.

“He said, ‘Oh, sorry, I meant to say hi,’” Jimenez reminisced. “Then I spoke to him in Spanish like, ‘Don’t worry. I speak Spanish too.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, really?’ in Spanish. He was like, in awe, and it was the cutest thing ever.”

Despite the Hispanic community in Lebanon being small, Jimenez said residents have been very accepting and the community is growing as well.

“Recently, we just got a young Hispanic couple of neighbors who moved in,” Jimenez said. “They came over like, oh my gosh, we speak Spanish. It was kind of a bonding moment.”

Outside of princess duties, Jimenez said she loves playing softball for an organization in Portland, where she competes against teams from all over the US. She also enjoys reading and walking her dogs, including 15-year-old childhood dog (Mariposa), who Jimenez named at age three.

“24/7, if I’m not doing anything, I’m probably practicing (softball),” Jimenez said. “I live on a little farm so I like to be around to help my mom, like with her garden, feed the cows, things like that.”

After graduating, Jimenez plans to pursue a diagnostic imaging degree at Oregon Institute of Technology. As her brothers decided not to go to college, she will be the first in her family to get a degree and she’s excited to make her parents proud.

“I think it’s a blessing, and it’s amazing because I get to represent not only my (immediate) family, but my entire family, because there’s only a few family members,” Jimenez said. “My cousins have been in college. I think going into the medical field is also a huge step.”

According to Jimenez, one of her heroes is Samantha Show, a pro softball player who said it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you to help you achieve your goal. Another hero is her mom, Ana Jimenez, who keeps things running while Jimenez’s dad, José, is gone at work. Ana taught her patience as well as how to overcome challenges even if it takes a long time.

“She has to keep it together for her kids, you know?” Jimenez said. “I think she has to have a lot of patience with everything.”

Jimenez said her dad’s work ethic inspires her too. As a dad in a first-generation family, he works incredibly hard to provide for the family. Beyond her plans to study imaging, she wants to go back to school for business and finance.

“I think long term I want to take over my dad’s business, so that would be nice,” Jimenez said, “and then on the side maybe do some real estate on a couple duplexes or something like that (and) rent them out. And maybe in 10 years have a little family of five or so; I’ve always been family-oriented.”

On top of being a youth minister at her church, Jimenez works as a senior senator in a leadership class at school where she helps keep things running smoothly, especially around events like graduation, and is also in the National Honor Society.

Jimenez has lots of things on her bucket list, including going skydiving and bungee jumping, learning to snowboard, riding in a hot air balloon, buying a house, and traveling to places like Japan and Europe.

“I haven’t had an opportunity (to snowboard) because if I get hurt I’ll be out for a season or two and then there’s my future,” Jimenez mused.

Jimenez suggested a retro theme for the next Strawberry Festival, “Bring out the denim (and) colors; I think it’d be super fun!”