Distinguished Young Women program showcases scholastic standouts

Published 1:29 pm Friday, January 6, 2023

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Throughout the state, women get celebrated in more ways than one.

With the Distinguished Young Women (DYW) program, Clark County is no exception.

Teenager Claire Martin will participate in the state competition of the Distinguished Young Women Program, which has been present in Kentucky for many years, on the weekend of January 13 and 14.

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“The Distinguished Young Women Program is a scholarship program awarded to high school junior girls. They have to be an incoming senior to participate”, said Donna Fuller, the long-time Clark County Chairperson for DYW. “They have to perform a talent, they have to interview, and their sole basis is on scholastics.”

Unlike other competitions, such as specific beauty pageants, contestants aren’t allowed to try again one year later – making a selection all the more time-sensitive.

Each June, a girl from Kentucky is chosen from their county to be a representative for the Distinguished Young Women program.

Presently, nearly 30 counties from around the commonwealth participate.

Both college and cash scholarships get awarded at the state level, and millions in college-granted scholarships are available also.

In the past, schools such as Campbellsville University have awarded winners full-ride scholarships, with some schools also providing one- or two-year scholarship offers.

The elected winner then represents their state at the national program in Mobile, Alabama, where over $130,000 in cash tuition scholarships is given.

Not only has Clark County previously participated in the Distinguished Young Women program, but 2009 winner Michelle Rogers also previously won at the national level.

To be selected for competition, several factors are taken into account.

The high school guidance office first completes a form.

“[It’s] based off your grades…If you take any [AP] classes, you get points based on that”, Fuller said. “You get points based on your ACT scores…those totaled up are how you come up with the scholastic scores. We have an outside judge from another college that looks at those.”

Regarding the talent show, several techniques have been seen previously, including jump roping, piano playing, and delivering monologues.

Even archery has been showcased.

“That was probably my favorite. She put balloons on the board, and she busted balloons”, Fuller said. “If a girl says she doesn’t have a talent, we try to help her come up [with one]. We never want that to be a reason why a girl doesn’t participate.” Girls can gain an education that benefits them in the short- and long term.

“I always tell these girls [that] even if you don’t win anything, the experience of the interview will help you in college and potentially get more financial aid,” Fuller added. “That’s kind of what we try to encourage girls to do.”

Invites to the schools will be sent out, explaining that there will be an orientation date that typically takes place in March.

Afterward, a deadline to sign up is set, usually around early May.

Following practice, the program itself will occur to determine Clark County’s 2023 representative.

No money is required to participate.

Some rewards go beyond the competition also.

“I have found in the past that the most rewarding [part] is the girls feeling good about themselves, being their best, and understanding that you don’t have to be the best at everything,” Fuller said. “I always tell these girls these five judges are not going to determine who they become. They will determine who they’ll become.”