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McKenzie Thomas becomes 2008 Lead Ambassador

2008 Ambassadors (left to right) Jamiere Abney, Emily Barrantes, Krystle Membrere, Ashleigh Schiano and McKenzie Thomas celebrate at Wednesday’s Ambassadors Program. - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
2008 Ambassadors (left to right) Jamiere Abney, Emily Barrantes, Krystle Membrere, Ashleigh Schiano and McKenzie Thomas celebrate at Wednesday’s Ambassadors Program.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

Bremerton’s McKenzie Thomas earned top nod in the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Ambassadors Program, receiving a $3,500 scholarship from First Command Financial Services and high praise from a panel of six judges.

“It feels really good,” Thomas said of becoming Lead Ambassador, a title she will carry proudly. “I’m really thankful for the scholarship.”

After applying for eligibility to be an ambassador, Thomas, a senior at Bremerton High School, wrote an essay about what freedom means, participated in speech class and Bremerton area Chamber of Commerce luncheons, and completed a series of formal interviews, finally emerging as one of the top five candidates.

“Every year, they blow my socks off,” Sandra Howes-Smith, chairman of the Ambassadors Program Committe, said of the five-member field, composed of four Bremerton High School students.

Jamiere Abney, Krystle Membrere and Ashleigh Schiano, all of BHS, joined Poulsbo’s Emily Barrantes to fill out the field.

Thomas participates in musical theatre and choir, varsity volleyball, and is the managing editor of the BHS newspaper. She volunteers with the Manette Business Association and is a representative to Invisible Children.

“All five kids are high grade point average, high achievers, involved in school activities and the community,” Smith said, complimenting the character of each ambassador.

Thomas said she applied unsuccessfully for approximately 30 scholarships before the Ambassadors Program, making winning this scholarship particularly rewarding.

“This scholarship is very involved,” Thomas said, pointing out that she has enjoyed working with the other ambassadors and the Chamber of Commerce.

The $3,500 provided by First Command Financial Services was the largest scholarship ever offered to an Ambassador.

Each of the remaining four ambassadors won scholarships as well: Schiano received $2,000 from the Chamber’s Herbert Goodman Scholarship Fund and Puget Sound Energy; Abney landed $1,000 from the Bremerton and East Bremerton Rotary clubs; Barrantes got $750 from Bremerton’s Central Lions Club and a ‘generous’ member of the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce; and Membrere earned $500 provided by the Navy Federal Credit Union.

“We were really able to boost up the scholarships from previous years,” Smith said, illustrating that every ambassador was worthy of a scholarship.

Ambassadors were required to interview a foreign national, current or former service member and deliver a speech on what they learned.

Delivering a speech about her neighbor, a service member, Thomas concluded the on-stage component of the evening with a powerful image depicting the life of combat heroes.

“Imagine your daily life,” she explained to the audience. “Now turn it completely upside down and place yourself in the middle of a battlefield.”

Ambassadors were required to interview a foreign national, current or former service member, and deliver a speech on what they learned.

Alongside three fellow BHS students, Thomas said it was an honor to be part of the ambassadors group.

“I had some tough competition,” she joked. “I’m really proud of Bremerton having four Ambassadors. It shows we’re improving our community.”

Leaving applicants’ high school off the application, Smith said the final ambassadors aren’t chosen based on the school they attend.

All five ambassadors will walk in the upcoming Armed Forces Day parade, scheduled for May 17.

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