For Ariana Velishek, the best part of participating in the Jordan Ambassadors program has always been the opportunity to serve and represent her community.
Velishek, who just completed her freshman year at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, was Miss Jordan 2019-2020.
This summer, she'll get to represent Jordan on an even bigger stage when she vies for the title of Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of Lakes.
The Minneapolis Aquatennial is the official civic celebration of the city of Minneapolis, put on yearly by the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Each year, representatives from ambassador programs around the state are personally invited to participate in the Aquatennial candidate week, where they interview for a chance to win one of three scholarships awarded to one Queen of the Lakes and two Aquatennial Princesses.
Like Velishek, candidates are all former ambassadors of their home communities and festivals. Throughout the week of Aquatennial they'll be judged on their poise, professionalism, public speaking, education, goals and extracurricular activities.
For Velishek, community involvement has been ingrained in her from a young age.
Her mother, Tanya, previously served as the mayor of Jordan and she runs the Jordan Food Shelf and Jordan's Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Grandmother Sharon was also heavily involved in the community, and Velishek grew up looking up to these family members while pitching in alongside them where she could.
"I went to a couple of city council meetings with my mom so I was always fairly aware of what was going on in Jordan," Velishek said.
Velishek said she was encouraged by her grandma to run for the Miss Jordan Ambassador Program.
Last September, Velishek handed off her crown to the next Miss Jordan, Mackenzie Elsenpeter.
At the crowning ceremony, an Aquatennial representative invited Velishek to represent Jordan at the celebration in Minneapolis this July.
"It's definitely a huge honor," Velishek said.
One of the things that makes this summer's events special is that Ariana is only the second young woman from Jordan to attend the Aquatennial.
The first was Morgan Tolly (Miss Jordan 2015-2016), who participated in 2017.
"She's been a huge help in getting me familiar with what I should expect as a candidate," Velishek said.
Leading up to the week of Aquatennial, there is a list of items each representative is expected to prepare, including virtual interviews where they describe their current and future goals and how they are involved in the community.
The videos will likely be available on Facebook once the event is over, Velishek said.
Though she's still in preparation and has yet to pick out all the outfits she will wear throughout her interview process, Velishek said she's getting excited to meet others who have a similar mindset and goals.
"Being an ambassador and representing Jordan, it's key for me to be true to myself," Velishek said. "I want to represent Jordan as something good and something that people should go and visit."
Though Velishek said some think of the ambassadors program as a beauty pageant or popularity contest, that's not what it represents to her.
For Velishek, the best part of her involvement in the Ambassador program is the way it has boosted her own confidence in herself.
"At first I would never talk to anybody. I was shy. I think I came a long way in terms of public speaking and growing as a person," Velishek said. "It's a lot of growing in yourself and the people around you."
To those who are thinking about getting involved in Miss Jordan in upcoming years, Velishek says it was well worth the time commitment for her.
"It's an experience you don't want to miss out on, even if you don't get crowned," said Velishek.