49 Voices: Cherry Blossom Princess Caitlin Sweeney

Caitlin Sweeney, Alaska’s princess in the Cherry Blossom Festival (Photo by Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media)

This week on 49 Voices we’re going to Washington D.C. Caitlin Sweeney was there last week to be Alaska’s “princess” in the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

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SWEENEY: It’s a cultural, professional development program where young women pretty much every state and territories come to D.C. for a week during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The age range in 19-24, so some people are still in college, some people are starting out their careers, so it really is learning about all these different opportunities and learning how to promote yourself. Especially empowering women, young women, in the workforce.

There’s a spin of the wheel and all the states are on that wheel, and so if your state gets landed on or your territory gets landed on, you win a trip to Japan and you’re selected as the queen for the upcoming year. It definitely is a big commitment, but I think I would be so honored to represent the United States. It’s just, I think, one of the biggest honors.

So, I’ve actually been involved within Senator Murkowski’s campaigns, Senator Sullivan’s campaigns. I was a Senate page and heard about it through that, and so… I love Alaska, I grew up there and really it’s an honor to be representing them.

I grew up kinda in Barrow for a couple years, and we definitely go back every summer and we have a lot of family up there. But we get up to Barrow and, obviously, different whaling festivals.

I’m in the hotel school at Cornell studying hospitality and business. Not too sure what I want to do yet, but definitely want to be returning to Alaska at some point. I could see myself living in Barrow. I’m actually going up there and working there this summer. I’m running a hospitality camp for Native kids within the village of Barrow and possibly oter villages. We’re not too sure yet. There is a hotel in Barrow, so we’re just trying to educate people about all the different jobs that are available within hospitality. Not only working at a hotel, but there’s customer services, there’s also restaurants and food. There’s just a lot of different things that I love and I’m interested in, and I hope I can inspire other kids to be interested in that as well and maybe think about it as a career path.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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