It’s good to be queen and, as of this weekend, Maritza Nuñez-Pereda is rocking the crown.
Nuñez-Pereda was named the Queen of the Fair Oaks Festival this
weekend, a distinction that comes with scholarship money to help with
her plans of becoming a lawyer. Nuñez-Pereda was one of four girls who
benefited from the scholarship opportunity. She claimed the largest
prize at $5,000.
“I started screaming and jumping on my bed,” she said,
describing when she heard the news about being chosen. “I ran outside
and told my mom that ‘I’m the Queen. I’m the Queen,’ over and over
Nuñez-Pereda, 18, learned about the scholarship opportunity
though the career center at school. As a Fair Oaks resident, the recent
Sequoia High School graduate decided to apply. The award heavily
considers community service — something of which Nuñez-Pereda was not
Starting in sixth grade at Kennedy Middle School, Nuñez-Pereda
joined the Red Morton Youth Advisory Board. Once at Sequoia, she
volunteered many hours at the Boys and Girls Club and at the Taft
“I never knew it would help me for college,” she said.
A difficult part for Nuñez-Pereda was selling raffle tickets, which help raise revenue for the event.
“I would not go up to people to sell tickets because I thought
they’d say no. My little brother pushed me; he held my hand and dragged
me,” she said adding she did car washes, wrote letters and sold tamales
to get it done.
“[Maritza is] a fabulous example of youth who are passionate,
who are compassionate. This has transformed the lives of everyone, not
just the girls themselves, the community that comes into contact with
them. It really is transformative. It’s so charming to see the
transformation,” said Festival Coordinator Nancy Sanchez.
While this is the fourth annual queen of the festival, the festival itself has a longer history.
The celebration began as a small community event taking up less
than a block with about 1,500 people attending, explained Festival
Director Catherine Matsuyo Tompkison-Graham. This year’s event, which
included national advertising spots, was expected to bring 40,000
When it started, the festival was funded completely by the San
Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, but that was unsustainable. After a
two-year hiatus, the festival returned five years ago as a benefit for
youth programs offered through the Sheriff’s Office like athletics,
homework clubs, literacy clubs, anti-drug and gang programs and other
education opportunities. Along with the re-emergence came a public
outcry for a queen — a traditional aspect to such festivals. The idea
came to be one that would also support educational opportunities for
Possible candidates go through a rigorous selection process
which requires maintaining certain grades, collegiate plans and
community service. Only five young ladies can be chosen to participate,
but numerous applications are welcome.
Nuñez-Pereda plans to attend Notre Dame de Namur University in
the fall to study sociology and later attend law school. Her legal
interests came from personal experiences. Nuñez-Pereda’s family home
has been broken into twice, resulting in the loss of many of the
family’s possessions. Earlier this year, her cousin was killed — a case
which remains unsolved. Nuñez-Pereda hopes to enter the legal
profession to help people who face difficult situations like these.
No queen would be complete without her court. Two semi-finalists
were named princesses — Kenia Cabrera and Marie Koesnodihardjo — which
comes with a $2,500 scholarship. One finalist, Victoria Tinoco, will
receive a $1,000 scholarship.
For more information about, or to donate to, the North Fair Oaks Festival, visit www.northfairoaksfestival.org.