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DYW celebrates self-confidence, inclusiveness

Successful. Commanding great respect. Showing dignity or authority in one’s appearance or manner. This is how “distinguished” is defined. 

Friday night, a panel of judges will select a single young woman who personifies these characteristics to be the 2018 Distinguished Young Woman of Clark County. She will be the 40th announced in the program’s history of mentoring young women in the community. 

While there remains an often misunderstood distinction between pageants and scholarship programs, both offer their own benefits for the young women who participate. 

Distinguished Young Women is a scholarship program designed to help young women with future job and collegiate endeavors. As the past and present chairwomen and participants attest, the program has helped hundreds of young women gain confidence, interviewing skills, scholarship money and life-long friendships. 

The local DYW program began in 1977 under the helm of Fara Fox Tyree as Junior Miss. The national committee selected to change the name of the program to better express the purpose of the program, which is is a non-profit scholarship program created in 1958. It is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls, providing more than $106 million in cash scholarships. The program focuses on helping young girls develop life skills, like interviewing skills, public speaking and making positive choices — all while encouraging them to “be their best self.” 

In speaking with some of those who have been integral to the program for the past four decades, a theme began to become apparent. DYW is about confidence, and organizers are all about making sure that boost of confidence is all inclusive. 

DYW is not about celebrating how a young woman looks, although it teaches young women to feel comfortable in their own skin. A Distinguished Young Woman is judged on her scholastic achievements, self-expression, talent, interviewing skills and fitness. Off the judge’s paper, a Distinguished Young Woman is judged on her grace and poise, her kindness towards the other participants and her willingness to step out of her comfort zone to try something new. 

As Clark County’s first Junior Miss, Lisa Stone, said, the program celebrates everything about a young woman a parent would want. 

Over the years, the program has boasted some winners who have been successful at the state level. In 2009, Michelle Rodgers was named Clark County’s, Kentucky’s and America’s Junior Miss. In a video used to recruit contestants, Rodgers testified to her own uncertainties about “fitting the mold.” 

“The real truth is, there is no ‘typical person’ for the DYW program. There is no mold. All you have to be to participate in this program is someone who believes you can be excellent,” she said. 

We congratulate the local DYW program on 40 years of helping young women believe they can be excellent. Thanks to the many people who have had a hand in these efforts. Kudos to the young women who will step on the stage Friday night in hopes of becoming the next Clark County Distinguished Young Woman, and good luck!