SUNNYSIDE — Cinthia Santiago was wearing a tiara as the reigning Miss Sunnyside until April 23, when she announced she was giving up her crown and royalty sash.
It was a hard decision, the Sunnyside High School junior admits, “…but I’ve always felt it would be a great honor to serve my country.”
So, when she and her family recently sat down with National Guard recruiter Sgt. Daisy Mann, Santiago made her decision.
First, she had to turn in her tiara for green camo and two-pound combat boots.
“It was a tough decision, but this is a great experience and the opportunity was here,” the 17-year-old shared.
“The boots are heavy,” she grinned, and she expects they’ll get heavier.
Santiago takes off on June 11 for boot camp in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“I’ll be in Fort Leonard Wood for three months,” she announced.
While she still has a year of high school to complete, she will be doing a lot of weekend duty during the coming year.
She said deciding on the National Guard as her choice of military service was an easy one.
Her family survived a Florida hurricane when she was a toddler, and “…the Guard helped my family,” she explained.
“It was a family story of how they helped,” she said.
Joining the military is just one of the leadership steps Santiago has taken in her young life, said High School counselor Diana Kilian Blumer.
She is active in the school’s Prevention Club, Upward Bound, Pep Club and marching band, where she plays clarinet. She served as a senate page for Sen. Jim Honeyford in January 2018. Her fellow pages got to sing for Gov. Jay Inslee while in Olympia.
Those activities have encouraged her to seek public office in her future.
She is currently seeking election as a 2019-2020 Associated Student Body vice president.
“I just was selected to be on the high school dance team,” she added.
She also plans to attend Washington State University.
“My brother Jose Luis is finishing up his freshman year there,” she announced.
After attending WSU, Santiago wants to transfer to medical school. “I want to be an ob-gyn doctor,” she declared.
“I’m hoping my work as a medic will give me experience toward my future goals,” she said.
Santiago has a lot of dreams, but all of them are within her grasp.
“Our family motto is: It may be hard, but don’t give up,” the once shy girl repeated.
I want to be an officer and, maybe someday, a senator or governor of my state. Why not?” she noted.