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DSA In the News

Presenting her royal highness

Published on 8/23/2010

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 again.”

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 short.

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 homework center.

“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 patrons.

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 the candidates.

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