Cassandra Rivera has been collecting dresses for years. She did not intend for this to become a hobby; it's what comes from winning a place on Central High School's homecoming court for three years, ever since she was a sophomore. Her mother, Irene Kenney, admits to being part of the reason for all the dresses. She and Cassandra have shopped for one for each ROAR pep rally, each homecoming game and each homecoming dance.
Add last year's prom gown, where Cassandra was selected prom princess, a dress from an eighth-grade dance, and this year's senior prom gown, and that's a lot of dresses.
It is rare for someone to be nominated so often for homecoming court, and Cassandra, 17, speculated on why it might have happened.
"I've thrown myself into the high school experience,'' she said. "And it's a matter of being friendly to people."
That's part of high school, she said.
"I think that's what it's all about, getting to know people and learning what you like and don't like. But every year I'm surprised when I get on homecoming."
As a freshman, Cassandra was nominated to be on the court, but she wasn't the one female representative freshmen are allowed to have. The court has two sophomore girls, three junior girls and four senior girls. There are the same number of boys.
Cassandra has gone through different phases during her high school years that have helped her relate to students. She thinks that might be why she has been nominated so many times.
"I like talking to everyone and giving everyone a chance. I don't like people getting sneered at. I don't like being sneered at," she said. "Everyone has had a bad day, but there's a difference between having a bad day and targeting someone."
She indicated she might have had some experience with that because of different looks she has sported over the years.
"In ninth grade, I was in this emo-esque phase. I just loved going to concerts and hearing about them. I loved indie and powerpop bands, straight-leg jeans, dark eyeliner, and, naturally, piercing," she said.
"I had eight piercings. I dyed the lower half of my hair bleach blond and varied the different styles I wore. All including side-swept bangs with one eye covered.
"I had wanted tattoos and more piercings, but at the same time I felt the initial negative backlash from certain groups of peers and of people in general society, people who judge books by their covers, if you will."
Her style shifted as she got older.
"For a brief period, I made a return attempt into the world of Abercrombie and Hollister, but that just didn't quite fit. From jeans and tees with Converse, I went to sweatpants and Soffe shorts, with the occasional skirt, for over a year," she said.
The slender senior started out high school considerably heavier, but she has lost about 50 pounds since ninth grade.
"Despite my year and a half of wearing only sweatpants and sweaters, that was the year I won prom princess," she said. "I've pretty much tried every style out there in trying to find myself."
A good student, she has also been class president for all four high school years. That, and all the work she has poured into each year's homecoming, helped make her familiar to her peers.
"I really like to be open with people," Cassandra said. "I like to be there for people. I think people are really interesting."
Cassandra is the daughter of James Rivera of Spring Hill and Irene and Russell Urban of Weeki Wachee.
After graduation, Cassandra would like to attend Florida State University to study theater and psychology. In the meantime she is a United Way Teen Board member in Hernando County and plans to play tennis at school when the season begins.
This year's homecoming seniors also include Jillian Gilbert, Tiffany Faulkingham, Jessica Delgado, Mike Lula, Cliffton Davis, Beau Steir and James Patrick. Tiffany and Clifton were selected homecoming queen and king during last week's festivities.