Although members of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Royal Court, by nature, are all Pasadena residents, Princess Michael Yvonne Wilkins does have a South LA connection that she credits with her wearing a crown during this month’s parade.

Wilkins has been participating in the Pete Brown Tennis Program at Harvard Park since she was 15.

“My cousin is a part of the Harvard Park program,” Wilkins said. “And I noticed how much of her confidence was boosted and her tennis game.”

Sometimes Wilkins drives the 45 minutes from her Pasadena home twice a week to work on her tennis game.

“Coming from a community that doesn’t look like me,being there allowed me to boost my confidence on and off the court,” Wilkins said. “They also wanted me and really cared about my professional self both on and off the court.”

In addition to boosting her confidence, the program has honed her skills to a point where she is now co-captain of the Maranatha High School girls varsity tennis team.

Wilkins, who celebrated her 18th birthday this month has been a member of the speech and debate team at Maranatha for four years.

“In my freshman year, I was relatively shy and not very confident in myself and being able to speak publicly,” Wilkins admits.

After winning the NAACP-Altadena Branch ACT-SO Regional Oratory championship last year, Wilkins attended the national finals held in Detroit, where she received a nearly perfect score.

All this came in handy last year when she turned in her application, along with 1,000 other women, to be a member of the Rose Parade court. The month-long selection process involved students from 45 Pasadena-area schools.

The rose queen and her court were selected based upon a combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership and community and school involvement.

Wilkins made the first cut to 250 applicants by quickly telling the judges why she wanted the honor. Responses were limited to 15 seconds in this first interview.

The second cut involved longer interviews, and the judges took candidates’ community involvement and academics into account. Wilkins found herself one of 25, and then seven finalists.

“The longest interview was the last one—four minutes,” Wilkins said.

Last October, she received her roses and crown as one of the six princesses.

“It was an honor,” Wilkins said. “Just because it was a Pasadena tradition. l lived in Pasadena and always looked up to the Royal Court.”

The Royal court attended more than 100 community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and he greater Los Angeles area. The grand finale was their appearance on the Royal Court Float in the 131st Rose Parade presented by Honda and attending the 106th Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, both were held New Year’s Day.

Now Wilkins is preparing for graduation and is looking at colleges.

“I would like to go to school in California, maybe USC or LMU, or Howard and Hampton back east,” she said. “They have everything I look for in a school: a speech and debate team, tennis team and a law school.”

Wilkins hopes to open up her own law firm and practice entertainment law here in LA someday.

A far cry from the shy 15-year-old she once was.