Homegrown in La Cañada Flintridge, Emilie Risha bloomed before elated locals this week as she was named to the Tournament of Roses 2020 Royal Court, earning distinction as one of seven young women who will serve as ambassadors of the storied organization.
A senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Risha credited growing up in LCF as an important step in her journey to being chosen for the Rose Court honor.
The 17-year-old LCF resident went to the local public elementary and middle school before attending FSHA as a high schooler.
“I think being in La Cañada and the Sacred Heart community has really helped uplift me, and the faculty members are so devoted to students at both schools — in La Cañada and Sacred Heart — that I just feel so supported and loved and raised up in my respective communities,” Risha said.
Seven were named to the court from among 25 finalists. The other six are Reese Rosental Saporito and Mia Thorsen of Marshall Fundamental School, Michael Wilkins of Maranatha High School, Camille Kennedy of La Salle College Preparatory, Cole Fox of South Pasadena High School and Rukan Saif of Arcadia High School.
Among the finalists were LCHS students Carly Witteman and Siena Dancsecs, who had their own fan sections, while LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal completed the local entourage to cheer on his students.
Members of the 2020 Rose Court will each receive a $7,500 educational scholarship and serve as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the Greater Los Angeles area. The court’s grand finale will be to ride on a float in the 131st Rose Parade and attend the 106th Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1.
The announcement and coronation of the 102nd Rose Queen and presentation of the 2020 Royal Court will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Like her colleagues, Risha has compiled a long list of accomplishments achieved during her high school years. At FSHA, she is currently treasurer of the Young Writers’ Society, president of gardening in the Cooking and Gardening Club, a theater dance captain, member of the library advisory board and member of the improvisational group ComedySportz. She plans to study comedy writing and copywriting.
Risha has also been a Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles member since age 8, said her mother, Elizabeth Risha, adding her daughter also was the emcee for this year’s annual Fiesta Days memorial service.
“We knew she’s a natural to be selected for this,” Elizabeth Risha said. “It’s a huge honor and we think she’s prepared for it. We’re excited that she’s going to be representing her school.”
Risha added that her daughter loves to be around younger children.
“She had a job this past summer at summer acting camp at La Cañada High School and she was the tap [dancing] teacher. She was also a good counselor for the children who were nervous. She was a loving, maternal figure for them.”
Emilie Risha is the second daughter of four. The others are Lauren, 19, a FSHA graduate; Allison, 15, a sophomore at FSHA; and Isabelle, 13, an 8th-grader at LCHS 7/8.
“We’re very excited and quite honored for Emilie and for our family,” her father, Janah, said.
Sister Carolyn McCormack, FSHA’s president, described Emilie as a “beautiful girl” who has made the school proud.
“The energy and the spirit that her sisters at Flintridge Sacred Heart have for her is beautiful to witness,” McCormack said. “She truly represents the spirit of the school. She’s a great girl.”
During the opening ceremony to announce the Rose Court, Ruth Martinez-Baenen, chair of the queen and court committee, told the captivated audience that while many things have changed for young women over time, the qualities and attributes of a Rose Court member have largely stayed the same in the Tournament’s more than century-long history.
“Strength of character, active in her community and school and ready to take on the world and then some,” Martinez-Baenen said before the finalists were announced. “You’re about to meet some extraordinary young women who typify all these qualities and so much more.”
Laura Farber, Tournament of Roses president for the 2019-20 year, explained that the finalists exemplify this year’s theme, “The Power of Hope.”
“With hope we can aspire to do better and inspire others to reach higher,” said Farber before announcing the finalists. “Currently, in this country and world we are so divided — and hope can bring everyone together. … We look at these finalists and we have hope for our future.”
Also at the event to help on stage was Flintridge Prep alumna and LCF resident Helen Rossi, who was selected to the court last year (with LCHS alumna Rucha Kadam).
When Farber called out the next member of the Rose Court from FSHA, the large group of uniformed fans erupted with loud screams and applause — so loud, in fact that the noise inhibited Farber from saying Risha’s name.
“Can I say her name?” asked Farber, and the crowd quieted down for the president to complete the announcement of the court’s fifth member.
Risha said she was thrilled to see so much support from everyone, including her family and classmates.
“I feel so happy to see all the advisers and the loud cheers when my name was called,” she said. “I feel very loved and supported. We do that a lot in Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy — support each other. I just feel blessed to be a part of it.”