Cadet Emmalee proud to be our shining light at celebrations for Queen's 90th birthday
A Co Antrim schoolgirl is set to help the Queen celebrate her 90th birthday this week.
Emmalee Wray has been selected to help Her Majesty light the first in a chain of 1,000 beacons that will be lit across the world to mark her milestone.
The 17-year-old from Carnlough will represent Northern Ireland's cadets at Windsor Great Park alongside cadets from England, Scotland and Wales.
Emmalee joined the cadets five years ago and was chosen for her achievements in the organisation, as well as completing her Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards alongside gaining 8A* and an A grade in her GCSEs.
Emmalee said: "They told me I had excelled and I had shown good qualities so I was chosen to represent them at a special programme for the 60th anniversary run by the cadets and then from there, I was chosen for this.
"It's great to represent the cadets because I enjoy being involved so much. They've given me so many opportunities like I've been on an exchange to Canada and this is just another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
The Ballymena Academy pupil will fly out with her proud parents on Thursday morning and will have a day of rehearsals ahead of the ceremony at 7pm where Emmalee will stand alongside the monarch.
The Queen will be joined by The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall and the celebrations will be watched across the world.
Emmalee said: "The excitement is really starting to build up now and my uniform has never been more carefully cleaned and pressed.
"I'm not quite sure what to expect, but I know it will be a wonderful day and I will be very proud to represent Ballymena.
"My mum is over the moon. She can't quite control her excitement. My dad is trying to keep us calm but he's looking forward to it too. Hopefully we'll get to meet the Queen before the reception which will be fantastic."
Mum Debbie (43) said words couldn't describe the pride she has in her daughter. She said: "She always sets her standards high, she doesn't just aim for the stars, she hits the sky in everything that she does.
"She deserves it very much so, and she is very humble with it - it's not her telling anybody, it's me.
"She stands back and accepts the credit but doesn't go shouting about it, whereas I would stand at the top of Slemish saying 'look what she's done'."
Emmalee was told about the trip last month but has had to keep it secret from friends and extended family
She said: "We've had to keep it secret up until now. My mum has the gift of the gab but she hasn't been able to tell anyone.
"I've had to keep it secret from all my friends at school and that was really hard.
"Now that it's all come out, everyone is really surprised but so excited for me." With exams on the horizon, Emmalee will have to take the day off school and swap her school uniform for her ceremonial cadet dress uniform for the big event.
Emmalee said: "I'm going to have to take a day off school and I'm about to start my AS Levels so goodness knows how much I'll miss but it will be worth it. Hopefully we'll get lots of photos and it will be amazing day."