Family Enjoys GCU Student’s Reign as Queen

January 03, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Overcast skies and chilly temperatures couldn’t diminish the enthusiasm of Peoria’s Fernandez family for Friday’s Fiesta Bowl Parade.

Mario and DaNetta Fernandez were on hand along Central Avenue with two of their three children, Matthew, 20, and Grace, 18.

Their oldest, 22-year-old Lindsay, would arrive shortly, atop the Dillard’s float transporting her as Fiesta Bowl Queen.

The Fernandez family cheers as the Fiesta Bowl Queen's Float passes.

Lindsay, a junior in the College of Health Sciences at GCU, surprised the entire clan — and herself — in early October when she was selected. She had entered the competition as an afterthought, knowing she could use the scholarship money but realizing she didn’t fit the beauty-pageant stereotype.

“She didn’t think she’d win,” said DaNetta, who has done medical transcription at Phoenix Baptist Hospital for 18 years while also serving as missions coordinator for Vineyard Church North Phoenix, where Mario has overseen several ministries for years.

“At our church, we always talk about being ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God. Lindsay knows who she is and doesn’t try to be something she’s not.”

DaNetta said all three of the Fernandez children know the value of working for what you want in life.

Matthew overcame three knee surgeries to recently realize his dream of starting a career in the Marines. He is currently stationed at Fort Pendleton in San Diego, and his goal is to join the Marines’ Fleet Antiterrorist Security Team (FAST). Grace is on academic scholarship at Arizona State University, planning on a career in business law.

Lindsay attended Glendale Community College for two years and then transferred to GCU in the fall. She’s paying her own way at the University by working and cobbling together scholarships.

2010 Fiesta Bowl Queen Lindsay Fernandez atop the float.

Few would suspect that the young woman set on becoming a cardiologist struggled in elementary school with dyslexia.

“She worked so hard to learn to read and had a tough time with math,” DaNetta said. “She had to study more than others did. Even back then, she knew what she wanted and her teachers really worked with her.

“There’s a point as a parent where you just have to trust God. Look at what she has been able to accomplish. God has been faithful. In our weakness, He is strong.”

Lindsay’s childhood also was shaped by mission trips. She went on her first one, to Mexico, at the age of 2 and has been to Honduras on several occasions, most recently in 2008 for three months. Her best friend is a missionary in Honduras.

She helps regularly with the Vineyard’s food-bank outreach, which serves about 175 households.

“Lindsay’s an amazing young woman,” said Brian Anderson, a 1980 GCU graduate and former Antelope baseball player and coach who is the Vineyard’s senior pastor. The church began 25 years ago as a living-room Bible study with 10 people and now has weekend attendance of nearly 4,000.

“Lindsay’s whole family has been such a blessing over the years to our church,” Anderson said. “I don’t have enough superlatives for them. They’re incredible servants.”

Not that there has been no time for fun along the way. Matthew recalled the three Fernandez children “surfing” on a mattress down the stairs of the family home while wearing motorcycle helmets. And there were legendary dirt-clod battles with friends in the back yard after school.

Fiesta Bowl Queen Lindsay Fernandez and Thunder.

“Lindsay loves shopping, and she said those (fights) were more fun than going to the mall,” Matthew said.

Watching the Fiesta parade with the family was Lindsay’s boyfriend, Conley Graham, an EMT who is good-natured about playing second fiddle to royalty.

“I get to self-entertain a lot,” he said, asked about the queen’s busy December schedule. “I haven’t seen much of her, but she’s enjoying this and she likes it.”

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or


About the Author
Leave a Comment