Rucha Kadam and Helen Rossi both are La Cañada Flintridge residents, but they had only a passing knowledge of each other before being selected to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Royal Court.
Each had entered the Miss La Cañada Flintridge contest about a year ago and briefly met during the interview rounds. Kadam ended up being selected to that court, but Rossi was not.
It’s hardly a touchy subject for them — in fact, both 17-year-olds laugh about the memory and share an easy rapport, as if they’ve been friends for years.
“You bring this up all the time,” Kadam said with a smile.
“I bring it up all the time. … Maybe I am bitter,” Rossi said with a laugh.
Rossi, who noted that Kadam was “perfect” for the Miss LCF court, said the way the Rose Court’s intense schedule — members appear at about 120 events and meet manypeople — forces the Rose Princesses and Queen to rely on one another.
“I don’t think we can be in the car with somebody at 6 in the morning without being best friends,” Rossi said. “It just sort of happens. We go through happy experiences and experiences where you’re frustrated and tired, and I think having all those mixed together you really lean on them and you really love them.”
Kadam and Rossi, the only LCF residents on the court, joined an exclusive group of seven Rose Court members when they were selected on Oct. 1.
The experience has taught the two a lot of lessons, but probably the biggest has been about communication.
“Communication with your parents, with your teachers and with the girls, and making sure that you know what’s going on at all times and if a last-minute change does happen, just making sure everybody else knows what’s going on,” Kadam said.
Gerald Freeny, the 2019 Tournament of Roses president, said in an email that Kadam and Rossi have been wonderful ambassadors during their time on the Rose Court.
“They are community-oriented leaders who embody the work of this organization,” Freeny said. “I look forward to sharing the [Rose Parade] route with them on Jan. 1,” he said.
Rossi said being on the court even has changed her probable choice of a college major and widened her career plan.
“I think I started off really wanting to just go down a business path, but I met some really, really amazing people who have careers in law, so I wanted to mesh those two together. So I think that’s how my perspective has changed throughout the experience,” Rossi said.
Kadam, who plans to major in computer science or medical science, is a center midfielder on the LCHS varsity soccer team. She said her Rose Court duties have caused her to miss practices. Still, she supports the team and goes to games, but won’t be able to play or practice until after the Rose Parade.
“I know the program and the coach really well and they actually had princesses on the team before, so they kind of know the drill,” Kadam said.
Coach Kevin Neumeier said in a phone interview that Kadam always thinks of others, never complains and gives everything she has to the sport. He said she always puts her team first and is a great teammate.
“She’s always there to work hard,” Neumeier said. “When her time is called, she’s ready to go.”
Rossi, a senior Girl Scout in Troop 7331, was recently awarded a Girl Scout Gold Project after writing and illustrating a children’s storybook for children with arthritis.
“It was very meaningful to her,” said Christine Godinez, her troop leader since elementary school, in a phone interview. “It was just creative and out-of-the-box thinking typical of Helen.”
Rossi, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, said she wrote the book “Joe’s Toes” about a youth who has arthritis. In creating the book, she worked with the Arthritis Foundation and was later selected to become a 2018 Youth Honoree and received an internship with the foundation.
“I really like it because it helps me connect with other people who are like me,” Rossi said. “It also helps me help other little kids who struggle with the same things I struggled with when I was growing up.”
Godinez said she was not surprised that Rossi has achieved so much. The teen was once a shy elementary school youth who has since come out of her shell to become ambitious and lead with a quiet leadership style.
“She’s always been a very positive and friendly person,” Godinez said. “And she gets along great with all the girls and inspires everyone to do great things.”
Both Rossi and Kadam believe LCF helped them achieve great heights.
“I think the community is just so strong and wonderful in La Cañada,” said Rossi, who is a member of La Cañada Presbyterian Church. She credits the church with helping her through her journey. “I remember I used to be really, really shy and I joined the choir there and things opened up a little bit.”
Kadam said the area’s unique opportunities have helped her get involved and find her niche.
“For me, a lot of that was through my high school, since it did have so many opportunities for me to connect with either the Chamber of Commerce or through JPL or through various sports programs,” she said. “But I think it’s always been so open and welcoming towards anybody who has an interest.”