Distinguished Young Women 2018

Robyn Clarke, Staff Writer

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Formerly known as America’s Junior Miss Pageant, Distinguished Young Women was founded in 1958 “as a way to reward the accomplishments of high school senior girls seeking to pursue higher education,” as it says on the Distinguished Young Women website. The DYW competition is held annually in all fifty states and focuses on each girl “being her best self.” It has five components: an interview, a fitness routine, a “self-expression routine,” which focuses on poise and grace, a talent, in which each girl has ninety seconds to perform a routine based on their talents, and “scholastics,” in which each participant’s cumulative GPA is calculated and factored into her overall score. There is also an opening number, where the girls get to have fun and be themselves as they are introduced to the crowd. The competition begins at the county level, with those winners going on to state. State winners then compete nationally, and whoever is named the Distinguished Young Woman at the national level is awarded $40,000 in scholarship money. This year’s Distinguished Young Women’s Program was held on January 20th at the Don Nixon Center, and seven of the eleven competitors were Northgate students: juniors Erika Ciminisi, Holly Clark, Megan Czerwinski, Ashley Dombrowski, Kennedy Eltz, Morgan Miller, and Samantha Morrison.

The competition began in the morning, when each girl was interviewed individually by the panel of judges. Clark says the interview was her favorite part. “…I felt [it] was most beneficial to future experiences and it was… good to be able to present myself in front of judges who I had never known and be able to tell them about myself,” she explains.

After spending the remainder of the morning rehearsing and perfecting the other aspects of the routine, it was show time. All eleven girls headed to the dressing room and began to prepare for the performance. Morrison calls being able to get ready and spend time with the other girls prior to the show “such a bonding experience”. “[After that], I could look at all [of] the girls in the program and… we all have an individual connection,” she says.

Every year, DYW has a different theme and this year’s was Georgia. During Boz Scaggs’ song “Georgia,” each contestant introduced her “little sister,” a younger student who plans to compete in DYW the following year. To Dombrowski, the opening number was the most difficult part of the routine, but also the most enjoyable. “Despite the difficulty and dynamic state of the routine, I loved… [introducing my]”little sister”. After the competition… my “little sister” and I became really great friends, and I look forward to watching her compete next year!”

Then, it was on to talent, where audience members saw everything from dancing to singing to slam poetry. For her talent, Miller sang Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Think of Me.” “…It was just really fun,” she says of the opportunity to perform the song. “… I…worked on it for awhile and it was really cool to… put all [of] that work into the show.”

Next up was fitness, done to the tune of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee.” While it was a group routine, at one point during the song, each girl jogged to the front of the stage to perform individually. Miller says it helped improve her confidence. “…I wasn’t really a fitness person when I started,” she explains, “[but] afterwards I was like, ‘Well, I can… do this!’”

The final part of the show was self expression, where each competitor had to answer the question, “If you could teach someone one thing, what would it be?” Once it ended, the judges began deliberating to determine the winners. Northgate placed first in three of the four categories: Ashley Dombrowski won scholastics, Kennedy Eltz won fitness, and Morgan Miller won self expression. Samantha Morrison took home the Spirit Award, given to the young woman who embodies the spirit of the competition, and Kennedy Eltz was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Coweta County. “[I’m excited] to represent the women of Coweta,” she says of her victory.

Czerwinski learned a valuable lesson from participating in the program. “[It taught me that] confidence is the best thing you can possess,” she says.

What advice do the girls have for future participants? Eltz’s answer was simple: “Go for it!” she says, and her response embodies what Distinguished Young Women is all about: pushing young women to be the best they can be.

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