Last summer, Isabella Ayala traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in a youth conference held by the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association. She made the trip with 18 other students from Oregon and won election as the student leader for the state.
That led to a return trip to Washington, D.C., where Ayala met with members of the state's congressional delegation, took part in leadership development classes and entered a speech competition.
In March, Ayala traveled to Orlando, Florida, to represent Oregon at the NRECA annual conference. At this event she helped run an information booth.
"It was nice to see that we do have a voice as a rural community, It was eye-opening," Ayala said.
This experience illustrates Ayala's life to this point: In every activity in which she participates, she finds a way to stand out.
That made Ayala a natural choice to represent Lebanon as part of the 110th Strawberry Festival Court. Despite her busy schedule, Ayala said trying out to be a princess was an easy decision.
"I've lived in Lebanon my whole life. I really love Lebanon and I wanted to so something for my community that was meaningful and impacted people's lives positively," she said.
There are still five weeks to go before the festival, but the court has already been hard at work attending community events. Ayala said her favorite events are at schools and clubs where she can interact with children.
"Kids are so excited and so happy. Being a source of joy for them makes me happy, too," she said.
Ayala's high school career has not been without its own challenges. She competed in cross country, track and field and swimming, but missed a big part of her junior year after undergoing hip surgery. A torn labrum caused her intense pain and made her miss almost all of the swimming season and the spring track season.
"I really hurt it during cross country my junior year, but it had been going on for a long time and I pushed through it," Ayala said.
After going through recovery all summer, she was able to participate in all three sports her senior year.
In her spare time, she works as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the Lebanon Community Pool.
Ayala is among the LHS valedictorians and plans to attend Oregon State University where she will major in chemistry.
Ayala loves science but has not yet decided whether she wants to go into research and be a college professor, or whether she wants to be a high school teacher.
"I am definitely interested in teaching," Ayala said.
Her injury ruled out her dream of running competitively at Oregon State, but she does plan to be involved in the Triathlon Club.