Underneath the Crown: A Look at the Likes and Lives of the Winter Week Court


Grace Loonan, Freelance Editor

It’s getting to be that time of year again when chants of house pride echo through the big gym, uniforms are replaced with colorful costumes, toasts are performed, and even the school building itself is dressed up with stunning decorations. During this centuries-old week of festivities, one ceremony stands out. Even the squabbles that follow House dodgeball dissipate momentarily as everyone joins together to celebrate the Coronation of the Winter Week Queen and her court. This year, the 2022 Winter Week Queen is Erin McQuillan, and the four Princesses are Elena Arriondo, Bridget Gerber, Alina Lalta, and Ashley Okafor. These five seniors were chosen by their classmates to represent the senior class of 2022 in this time-honored tradition. Yet, each of them is so much more than just their royal role in the Winter Week court. Let’s take a closer look at the lives and interests of each member of the court, so we can learn more about who they are underneath their crowns.

Elena Arriondo (Princess):

At school, Elena is part of Peer Mentors, plays tennis, and is an enthusiastic member of the Harry Potter club. She is also the manager for the softball team, a job that involves managing the “book” by writing down every play/pass that happens during a game. She says the position can be stressful sometimes, but it’s mostly very fun. Elena works at Oxendale’s Market in West Saint Paul four times a week, and she is an expert at karate. The karate studio where she would practice closed last year because of COVID-19, so now, she practices at home. So far, she has broken a lamp and the light fixture above her dining room table. She would also like to add that she is slightly obsessed with her dog. As far as senior year goes, Elena really enjoyed senior retreat; she says it was such a great part of the year. She liked how it brought her class closer to each other since the entire grade was able to hang out together outside of school. Elena is looking forward to Winter Week, especially the Friday morning when the school is completely decorated. As a senior, she can’t wait to decorate the school with her class, and she hopes that this year’s decorations will live up to the Disney-themed ones she remembers from a past year. Something Elena appreciates about Vis is the all-girls aspect. She feels that the absence of boys makes it easier to truly get to know other girls at school and creates an environment of less pressure in general. She also is grateful for the small class sizes, which have allowed her to get to know the people in her grade better.

Bridget Gerber (Princess):

You may know Bridget from tennis, which she plays for fun, or from track, where she competes in the hurdles, high jump, and distance relays. Outside of Vis, Bridget is a dedicated Irish dancer. She competes and performs year-round, especially during the holidays, and she says that she owns countless wigs! Some of her hobbies include baking holiday treats and playing with her Goldendoodle, Bruno. This past summer, Bridget traveled with her mom to visit colleges, and she appreciated the mother-daughter bonding time. Her favorite part of senior year so far has been all of the senior activities that she’s gotten to participate in, such as retreat. When asked to share her favorite thing about Vis, Bridget immediately recalled the chill and open environment of the school, explaining how she is able to talk about anything with her classmates. She also likes how close the teachers at Vis are to the students. Bridget is excited for Winter Week, and as a proud member of Aurora, she is looking forward to the House activities. She enjoys dressing up for each day’s theme, as well as seeing the creative outfits others put together. Most of all, she thinks it’s “awesome that we all get to be together.” Bridget is pleased, yet humble about her role as a Winter Week Princess, commenting that “everyone in the senior class is so deserving [of it].”

Alina Lalta (Princess)

As a lifer, Alina has grown up watching Winter Week coronations, and this year, she is so excited to get to participate in it as a princess. Alina is a leader of the Students of Color Society (SOCS), and as such, she helped to organize and plan the upcoming MLK convo, which she says was a lot of work, but fun. She likes meeting more underclassmen through SOCS, and getting to know people she doesn’t usually have the chance to talk to at school. In the spring, Alina participates in track, running the 100, 200, and sprint relays. This sport enables her to hang out with her friends during practice and bond with her relay team. Alina is also the editor of the Current News section of the Vis Voice. Outside of school, Alina works at Chatime, a delicious bubble tea store. In her spare time, she plays guitar for her church and on her own. Alina enjoys this hobby and wants to continue playing throughout her life. Senior year has been going really well for Alina, and she says the year itself, especially senior retreat, has been a highlight of her high school experience. She is grateful that her class is so close and feels like she can talk to anyone. Alina is looking forward to the enthusiasm of Winter Week dodgeball, and she’s super excited that Coronation is happening this year (she says it’s worth the stress of finding a dress). Alina is glad to have Winter Week to look forward to, a time when the whole school, even the lower grades, come together to celebrate. A part of Vis that Alina really enjoys is the small class sizes, which create a close-knit environment and provide an academic advantage (as she pointed out, smaller classes allow teachers to attend better to the needs of each individual student). Alina also mentioned that she appreciates the unique Vis spirit and culture that, along with our die-hard obsession with bagels, doesn’t seem to ever die out. 

Erin McQuillan (Queen)

Any distance runners and nordic skiers at Vis know what a great cross country and nordic captain Erin is. She is also a leader of the French and Woman ActiVISts Clubs, as well as a member of Leadership. In her spare time, Erin enjoys reading (especially historical novels), hiking, biking, and camping. In the summers, you can find her working at Nelson’s Ice Cream in Saint Paul. Two of Erin’s favorite memories from 2021 are a camping trip she took with her brother and sister, where she visited two National Parks, and seeing Pitbull live at Jingle Ball. The highlight of her senior year so far has been her election as Winter Week Queen. In past years, she has looked up to and admired the girls on the Winter Week court, and she is grateful to get the opportunity to be one of them. Erin is looking forward to Winter Week, and she’s excited to get to decorate the entire school as a senior. Some things that Erin loves about Vis are the small class sizes, which allow students from other grades to get to know each other better, and the s’mores bars at lunch. Erin says she is “so honored to be your queen,” and she wants everyone to “have a great Winter Week!”

Ashley Okafor (Princess)

Ashley is a leader of the Students of Color Society (SOCS) and Woman ActiVISts Club, as well as a loyal member of the French Club. She loves to read, especially Young Adult realistic fiction, and she works as a shelving assistant at her local library in Eagan. Over the past two years, Ashley has started to bake more. She makes a lot of cakes, as well as cupcakes and scones. She also enjoys painting, which she has taught herself through practice and watching videos. Ashley mostly paints nature scenes, and she recommends the pastime, describing it as very calming. This past August, Ashley traveled to Chicago to visit her sisters, and she called the trip a highlight of her summer. She had a lot of fun at senior retreat, which she named as her favorite part of senior year so far. Ashley is excited for Winter Week, and she is really looking forward to the coronation, as well as the “feast” lunch that’s usually catered on coronation day. She remembers senior-planned decorations from past Winter Weeks, such as the elaborate Disney theme that covered the school a couple of years ago, and she can’t wait to see the Vis building all decked out again. Ashley loves the friendly atmosphere at Vis, and she appreciates how everyone here is more collaborative than competitive with each other. Her favorite thing about this school is the people she has met, and the great friends she has made.