When Avery Hartl was in second grade, her mother, Jennifer, signed her up to take part in a production by the Lebanon Association for Theater Arts.
It seemed like a minor decision at the time, but it ended up being one of the decisive moments of Avery's life.
"She decided that she wanted me to try it and I just fell in love with it. I thank her very much for that," she said.
Hartl developed a love for drama and has continued to be involved in LAFTA productions and in the theater arts department at East Linn Christian Academy.
"Everyone always talks about sports and how it's nice to grow closer with a team. I have grown closer with a team through drama. I truly love getting to know the other actors," Hartl said.
This school year, Hartl filled several roles on stage and off for East Linn's production of "Little Women." Hartl played one of the parts (Aunt March) and served as an assistant director. She also helped with costumes, props, lighting and sound.
Hartl found directing especially interesting and is now serving as an assistant director for East Linn's improv-based spring show.
Hartl has attended East Linn Christian Academy since first grade and her mother is a kindergarten teacher at the school.
With graduation fast approaching, Hartl has decided to attend Linn-Benton Community College to begin her studies in veterinary assisting. She has always had an interest in veterinary medicine and her goal is to become a certified veterinary technician license.
Like most children who grew up in the Lebanon area, Hartl was always familiar with the Strawberry Festival. But she got a first-hand look at the experience when her older sister, Ashley, was named to the court.
"I have always wanted to be a Strawberry Princess since my sister was on court in 2009. I have loved it ever since and aspired to be a Strawberry Princess," Hartl said.
Despite her sister's positive experience, Hartl was still reluctant to put her name forward. Her sister encouraged her to try despite her reservations.
"I was so nervous that I wasn't going to make it on, and it was just going to crush me if I didn't make it on," Hartl said. "But she convinced me to try out."
With the 2019 Strawberry Festival quickly coming up, Hartl is already feeling nostalgic for the relationships she has developed while serving on the court. Hartl has enjoyed getting to know the community leaders who put on the festival and building friendships with the other members of the court.
She has also enjoyed working with children at various events.
"There was this little girl named Autumn and I truly connected with her. We all went to visit the Boys & Girls Club and we just gravitated toward one another. We talked and she hugged me goodbye and said she couldn't for me to visit her school" Hartl said.
When the court visited her school, the child came running.
"It was truly amazing just to get to see the smile that you can give to people," Hartl said.