By Carolyn Marnon –
Twelve to fourteen young women from Wayne and Westland are preparing for the annual Distinguished Young Women awards on December 4. Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program that inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments. This is the 49th year for Wayne/Westland, which happens to be the largest local program in Michigan.
The focus on the program is on scholarship rather than beauty. The program was previously known as Junior Miss, but because they were trying to disassociate themselves with being thought of as a beauty pageant, the name was changed to Distinguished Young Women.
The motto is “Be your best self.” The program tries to help girls become their individual best physically, mentally, educationally and health-wise.
Lauren Perry, Wayne/Westland Junior Miss 2005, is in her 3rd year as co-director of the local program along with Jodi Berry. “The Distinguished Young Women organization is one that continually inspires young women while providing them with opportunities to learn more about themselves and their local communities. This program is one that I am incredibly proud to be a part of, and I find it to have a positive impact on young ladies. One of our main goals is to provide an avenue for our participants to supplement their college experience via scholarship opportunities and to recognize their individual strengths and capabilities.”
In the fall, the program seeks out girls who are interested in participating. An orientation follows to give the girls more information about the program. There are five mandatory practices held through October and November, each about three hours long. These practices include mini workshops where girls learn interview skills, how to dress for an interview, and other important skills a young woman should have. They also learn a routine for the physical fitness part of the program.
The program has traditionally been for high school senior girls. The program is transitioning to a focus on high school junior girls, so this year there will be juniors and seniors participating. The transition came about because it was thought that junior girls were beginning their college journey and needed help earlier with scholarships. A senior girl will become the 2016 winner while the junior girl will be named the 2017 winner at this year’s event in December.
The girls are judged in five categories: talent, poise, scholastic, interview and fitness. Two girls will be awarded scholarship money in each category. Scholastic is based on their transcript in school. Fitness is based on how well they do in a routine the girls all do together. For poise, the girls answer a question on stage wearing a knee-length dress. Talent can be anything the girl is good at. A talent does not have to be dancing or singing. This year, a girl will be showcasing her bowling talents and another will be showing off her figure skating talents. This is done by showing videos during their talent segment while the girl talks about her talent and/or passion on stage in detail. Interview involves a 10-minute interview with the girl by the judges and also how she is dressed for the interview.
There is no cost for a girl to participate in the program. The girls are asked to help sell advertising in the program (a way to give them experience in new skills), but they are not required to sell any. The more money that is brought in through advertising and donors/sponsors, the more that goes toward the scholarship awards. There is no set amount for each scholarship award. Each year, it is based on how much has been raised for that year’s program. The program recently had a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings in Westland where 20 percent of the diner’s bill was donated to the program. They will be holding a Poinsettia Fundraiser November 7-21. Prices range from $10-$25 with a choice of red, pink or white flowers. Orders will then be available for pick up on November 29. If you would like to order poinsettias and help increase the scholarship money, you can email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s participants include:
Juniors: Elaena Wojtowicz, Nicole Duque, Kaitlyn Balko, Emma Diamond, Hannah Gottman and Antrunika Alonzo.
Seniors: Kelsie Wysong, Riana Hardyniec, Emily Dietz, Brooke Arcuragi, Crystal Pinard, Tirzah Ault and Alyssa Brown.
The Distinguished Young Woman program is being held Friday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., at Wayne Memorial High School’s auditorium. Tickets are $10 if you pre-order them by emailing Lauren at the email listed above.
Tickets are also available the night of the event for $12. Student tickets are $8.
Everyone is invited to attend. You do not have to know a girl participating to enjoy the show. The 2016 winner will go on to the state competition held in Saline and then possibly to the state competition held in Mobile, Alabama.