Simply the best: Clark County’s Clair Martin named Kentucky’s 2023 Distinguished Young Woman

Published 4:52 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023

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On the weekend of Jan. 13 – 14, dozens of young ladies from counties all over Kentucky were in Lexington for the Distinguished Young Women Program state competition.

Local student Claire Martin shined brightly and was named the 2023 Distinguished Young Woman of Kentucky.

“I was really shocked about it because I had thought someone else is [going to] win because of the awards they had been given,” she said. “I felt very accomplished being able to go up there and make my family and county proud.”

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Martin now moves forward to represent Kentucky at the 66th National Finals from June 22 – 24 at the Mobile Civic Center Theater in Mobile, Alabama.

She will stay with a host family for two weeks before the competition, in which she’ll compete against a girl from each of the 49 remaining states.

Her winnings at state competition include preliminary awards in fitness ($300) and self-expression ($300), overall talent winner ($750), and – for being named Distinguished Young Woman of Kentucky – $7.500.

DYW is a national scholarship program, with Clark County first taking part in 1978 under the direction of Fara Fox Tyree. Donna Fuller took over in 1995 and continues her role in Clark County today.

Formerly known as Kentucky and America’s Junior Miss, prior contestants have included Michelle Rogers of Clark County.

Rogers not only won the state competition but the national competition as well.

Five categories are given for contestants to participate in – scholastics evaluation, a 10-minute interview in front of five judges, fitness, self-expression, and a 90-second talent routine.

For her 90-second talent routine, Martin chose to play the piano piece “Winter Wind” by Frederic Chopin.

Having played since she was five years old, it was a choice born out of her ambition.

“I love the instrument. I think it’s very challenging and very stimulating,” Martin said. “I looked up a Youtube video asking the top ten hardest songs to play on the piano, and this was number three. I wanted to give myself a challenge that I’ve never put myself up to before, and my piano teacher completely supported me.”

Whereas the talent routine comprises 20% of the grade, the scholastics evaluation and 10-minute interview make up 25%.

Scholastics evaluates areas such as test scores, core schedule, GPA, and strength of schedule, while the interviews get ranked on a score of one through ten.

Both are scored before contestants even hit the stage.

According to Tressa Milburn, one of two state program co-chairpersons, along with Kami Brumley, the program collectively helps students prepare for their futures in multiple ways.

“As a scholarship program, I think it recognizes and rewards a well-rounded young lady,” Milburn said. “It encourages her to be healthy and fit, and to have the ability to speak on topics that are not only prevalent to young women but to current events in the world.”

For Martin, who hopes to use the money earned to attend the University of Kentucky and study biology – with her sights on either medical school or becoming a physician’s assistant – the program has also offered many advantages.

“I definitely just…want to make the most of this opportunity I’ve been given,” she said. “I think that this program itself is amazing.”