Grace Sanchez, a petite 17-year-old brunette who is a senior at MSA-West, was recently selected by the members of the Knights of Columbus No. 970 to reign for the year as Evangeline.

As Evangeline, the character from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same name, Grace’s primary duty will be to serve as the star and spokesperson for the Acadian Festival in October.

She is the 51st Evangeline chosen for the festival hosted by the Knights of Columbus and succeeds Zoë Bertrand, who set the bar high with her outstanding representation of the fictitious character.

“Zoë is really sweet,” Grace said, and she’s helped her successor out. “She gives me tips – anything I need to help me make it through the year, she says she’s going to be there for me.”

Sanchez, though, has an advantage over Bertrand – members of her family have served since her grandmother’s generation on the court of Indians, the women from whom Evangeline is chosen.

“I come from a very long line of princesses, everyone starting with my grandmother’s siblings on down have been Indian princesses, every girl in my family,” she said. “While there’s a lot of us who have served on the court, I’m the first one in my family to become Evangeline.”

With the long association with the Evangeline program, her family is thrilled they finally have an Evangeline in the family.

“Oh my gosh, my family is so excited about it,” Grace said, barely able to contain her own excitement.

Before the excitement of winning, though, came the apprehension of making it through the selection process. Becoming Evangeline is much more than winning a beauty pageant. “The interview is stressful, it’s scary.”

“It’s more about your moral character than it is like a pageant,” Sanchez said. It’s more about what you do for the community, how you treat people, the kind of person you than it is about what you look like. It’s more about personality.”

The interview process this year was particularly grueling.

“We got there for about noon on a Saturday and we weren’t done until 6:30 p.m.” Grace said. In all 15 Indian princesses were interviewed before we took a break.

“And then there were callbacks,” she said, and then another. “It’s the first time they’ve had to do two callbacks.”

“It was the first time in years that’s it’s gotten so close that they had to do two callbacks,” Grace continued. “They usually only do one callback and that’s it.”

Cute as a button, proving looks do play a role in the selection of Evangeline, Grace is just a whisper of a girl at 5-foot-two and a weight that fluctuates around 100, with dark hair and brown eyes.

Academics are also a part of the criteria the Knights of Columbus consider and Sanchez excels in that department.

With a grade point average of 4.3 because of her advanced placement classes, Grace expects to enter college as a sophomore. The choice of colleges was an easy one for her.

“I’ve always wanted to go to LSU, even since I was little,” she said. Sanchez recalled a conversation between her, her dad and her grandmother when she was about 3 and she had already decided then to be a Tiger. Even when her dad said Harvard University might give her a scholarship, she held tight to being in the purple and gold.

“I’ve always wanted to go to LSU,” Grace said. “It’s close to home and I’m out there all the time, especially for football games. They’re my favorite thing.”

Sanchez plans to become a physical therapist despite the rigor and length of the curriculum.

“For some reason, physical therapy just stood out to me when I was perusing the curricula at LSU,” she said.