By Carolyn Marnon – Wouldn’t you like to be part of a program where girls share in the scholarship money available? Wouldn’t you like to have fun while doing it? It’s possible when you participate in the Distinguished Young Women program. Distinguished Young Women (DYW) is a national scholarship program that inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun experience. The program strives to give young women the opportunity to further their educations and prepare for a successful future.
“Decades of Distinction” was the theme of the 2017 Wayne-Westland program. Nine high school juniors from Wayne Memorial and John Glenn came together over a two month period to prepare for the event that was held at Wayne Memorial’s Stockmeyer Auditorium on March 10.
On the night of the program, each girl introduced herself and told the audience what her best asset was. Madison Lago (JGHS) said it was her kindness. Katherine Iwanka (WMHS) chose her sense of humor. Olivia Smith (WMHS) thought it was her giggly personality. Sariah Bolden (WMHS) liked her passion. Alexus Parcell (WMHS) touted her passion and personality. Hailey Hayward (WMHS) was positive it was her positivity. Danielle Deel (JGHS) has determination as does Ashley Socia (JGHS). Finally, Irisa Lico (WMHS) was proud of her motivation.
The young ladies did a physical fitness routine to “I’ve Got a Feeling” where the girls took turns doing the same brief routine showing that they can keep themselves fit. Each girl presented a talent. Talents included cheerleading, dance, singing, reciting a monologue, poetry, narrated photography and a traditional Albanian dance. Finally, the girls drew a card with a question that they had to answer. The week before, the girls met with the judges for a ten minute interview. Not part of the evening agenda, but counted towards the girls scores, was a review of their high school transcripts. The goal of the entire program is for the girls to become their best selves.
Riana Hardyniec, 2016 DYW of Wayne-Westland said it best in her closing statement. “Finally, to all the girls who competed tonight, remember that no matter what the results are, the judges are not picking a winner but a representative from a group of winners.”
Ashley Socia of Westland won the title of 2018 DYW of Wayne-Westland. First Runner Up Sariah Bolden is 2018 DYW of Westland while Second Runner Up Danielle Deel is 2018 DYW of Wayne. All three will represent the Wayne-Westland program at the state competition that will be held in Saline in July.
Ashley “heard about the program through the past participants Kaitlyn Balko (who is 2017 Wayne-Westland DYW), Dominique Denson, Kendall Stasser and a few others.” She saw through social media all of the great things these girls had participated in. “I decided to participate in the program because it would be a great opportunity to get outside of my comfort zone, meet new friends and new mentors. The benefits that I have received from the program are being more confident with my true self and creating new friendships with girls my age and also gaining multiple new role models from the DYW board. Competition night was super fun. I was a little nervous but more relaxed than usual because it didn’t feel like a competition. All of us girls became very close and any of the girls I met would have deserved the title of the Distinguished Young Woman of Wayne-Westland. That night was filled with fun and excitement! We all had a blast back stage talking to each other and having fun before we went out on stage.”
“I am looking forward to applying this fall to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to study medicine,” she continued. “I’m looking forward to the state program; it will be another great experience to help me grow! I love how the program helps young women explore new opportunities, gain self-confidence, and build up their future. I will be singing another song that is inspirational to me, and I have been practicing my talent as well as my interviewing skills and personal fitness. A young woman who really inspires me from this program is Riana Hardyniec. She was the Distinguished Young Woman of Wayne Westland and Michigan. She has been such a big help throughout the process. Also, she attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which is my dream school. She is a huge role model for me! This program has really helped me to be my best self, and I want to thank the board of the DYW program for all that they do for us girls!”
Danielle also heard about the program through Kaitlyn Balko. Danielle plays varsity soccer and club soccer along with being on the yearbook committee and a member of the National Honor Society. Her goal is to become a Forensic Psychologist. She wants to go to Tiffin University in Ohio. It is one of 29 colleges in the US that offer the major; there are none in Michigan. While going through the program, she discovered that she was able to connect with new people and put herself out there. She will use this knowledge to create opportunities to succeed in the real world.
If you would like to support the DYW of Wayne-Westland program, please consider purchasing an 11” hanging basket for $18 at their Mother’s Day Plant Sale held at Wayne Lawn and Garden, 39915 Michigan Avenue, Friday, May 12, 4:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 13, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
If you know a Wayne or Westland girl who will be a junior next school year, encourage her to learn more about the program. Even though talent is involved, anything can be a talent. If she plays soccer, she can present her soccer skills. If she writes poetry, she can recite a poem. The possibilities are endless.
Ashley walked away from the event in March with a $1200 scholarship as the winner. She also won a $250 interview award, $250 scholastic award, $200 talent award, $150 self-expression award, $200 spirit award, and $150 Be Your Best Self award. Danielle earned $400 for being second runner up, $250 interview award, $250 scholastic award, $150 Be Your Best Self award, and $50 gift certificate from Target as the People’s Choice Award winner.