For Athena Brattin-Cain, life is about challenging herself to do more and being involved in something bigger than herself. She recently graduated Elsie Allen High School and throughout her time there, she has challenged herself in every way she could.
After hearing about the Miss Sonoma County pageant from one of her teachers, Brattin-Cain knew that entering the pageant was something she needed to do. She entered the teen pageant two years before competing for Miss Sonoma County, but she said the pageants were structured differently.
“There wasn’t a specific reason why I entered. I wanted to challenge myself and the pageant was something I was totally unfamiliar with,” said Brattin-Cain.
Brattin-Cain views Miss Sonoma County as a role model and enjoys the opportunity to interact with community members. Since being crowned in March, Brattin-Cain has given a motivational speech to raise money for the Sonoma County Children’s Village, attended the 4-H Foundation’s pancake breakfast, served alongside local elected officials at community events, and appeared in numerous parades throughout Sonoma County.
One of her most memorable moments was at the Petaluma Butter & Egg Day Parade and Festival where she met a six year old girl with leukemia. Brattin-Cain knows it’s the little things in life that matter and made the girl an honorary princess giving her a crown and sash.
“As a community it doesn’t necessarily change anything, but for that little girl, it made her really happy. We just help out in any way we can – things like that make it all worth it,” said Brattin-Cain.
Before becoming Miss Sonoma County, Brattin-Cain found many different ways to challenge herself by joining in on activities that she found interesting and non-traditional, including volunteering as a Sunday school teacher at her church.
Brattin-Cain surprised everyone by joining the Elsie Allen football team where she played tackle. She was the only female player on the team, and she admits a small team gave her the opportunity she needed to play more and succeed rather than if she’d gone to a school with a larger team.
“No one thought I could do it, so I wanted to show everyone that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I can’t do the same thing,” said Brattin-Cain. “It was a lot of fun and probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. No one thought I could do as well as I did, so it’s always cool to go out onto the field and surprise people.”
In addition to joining the football team, Brattin-Cain was also a member of Elsie Allen FFA. She was this year’s vice president as well as Sonoma Section secretary. Last year, Brattin-Cain was the chapter secretary and the Sonoma Section sentinel.
She became interested in FFA when members of the Santa Rosa chapter presented in one of her middle school classes. Brattin-Cain thought it looked more interesting than a regular science course and decided to take an ag biology course her freshman year.
“I fell in love with the agriculture program,” said Brattin-Cain, “I raised pigs, and it’s a lot of fun. I never thought I’d be as involved as I am now. Looking back on it, I’m really glad I did it.”
Brattin-Cain will be showing two hogs at the Sonoma County Fair this year. Her hogs are dark crosses, and although she wishes it wasn’t, this will be her last year raising pigs.
Tony Geraldi, Secretary and Appearance Coordinator for the Miss Sonoma County Scholarship Program said, “with agriculture being such a major way of life for so many of us here in Sonoma County, it’s refreshing to have a Miss Sonoma County who is so involved in FFA and raising farm animals,”
“Agriculture and tourism are the top industries in Sonoma County,” said Brattin Cain.
“We wouldn’t have the tourism if it wasn’t for agriculture. It’s not what people think it is. A lot of people tend to pass over agriculture and think it’s not as important as it is, but agriculture is pretty much everything. Once I realized that I got involved in it. I wanted to be more involved in the community and what our community is really based upon is agriculture.”
The future holds a lot more challenges for Brattin-Cain. She ships out with the United States Marine Corps on November 16th. While she wishes she had more time to spend in Sonoma County, she is excited to start the next adventure of her life. She enjoys the intensity of the Marines and hopes to become a combat engineer or a helicopter crew chief.
“Originally, I wanted to go to college and study agriculture maybe be an ag teacher,” said Brattin-Cain. “But then I met a recruiter at Country Summer last year and fell in love with the Marines. Now it’s a goal of mine. I’m really proud to do it. I think it’s the right path for me.”
Brattin-Cain’s advice to students just going into high school is to take an agriculture class. She attributes her success to her ag classes and the Elsie Allen FFA program. Brattin-Cain said without those classes she wouldn’t be where she is today. She wouldn’t have the public speaking skills, she wouldn’t be Miss Sonoma County, and she wouldn’t be enlisted in the marines. She hopes to get back into agriculture after she finishes her time with the Marine Corps.