Distinguished Young Woman to be held July 11

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ada Ruth Huntley, Savannah Swindle and Emily Burkhalter work on the opening routine Tuesday afternoon.  (Photo by Emily Reed)

Ada Ruth Huntley, Savannah Swindle and Emily Burkhalter work on the opening routine Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Emily Reed)

The Chilton County Distinguished Young Woman program will be held July 11 at 6 p.m. at Chilton County High School.

The 59-year-old program is a national scholarship program that encourages high school seniors to develop their full potential.

The program provides contestants scholarship money for college.

This year’s program will have seven contestants from Chilton County who will compete in a talent portion, a physical fitness portion, an interview and self-expression.

Hope Short represented Chilton County as the 2015 DYW, and said she enjoyed her year meeting new people and establishing lifelong friendships.

“This program has been great,” Short said. “I had the opportunity to go to Montgomery and compete for the state title. That was where I got to stay with a host family for a week, and they welcomed me as one of their own. I also had the opportunity to enjoy different activities with the other contestants and enjoyed making friends with people who I am still close with today.”

Short, who graduated from Chilton County High School in May, earned $3,100 in scholarships to use when she attends the University of Alabama in the fall.

Short plans to double major in piano performance and English.

“Kay Clark and Leslee Deavers (DYW organizers) were also very helpful to me throughout this process,” Short said.

According to the DYW website, the first America’s Junior Miss program was held in Mobile in 1958 with representatives from 18 states.

“It was a modest beginning with the contestants, orchestra and stage crew outnumbering the audience,” the website states.

However, support from the local community provided $10,000 in cash scholarships to the contestants.

Throughout the years, America’s Junior Miss has attracted celebrities including Diane Saywer, Deborah Norville and Debra Messing.

In the spring of 2010, it was decided that America’s Junior Miss would receive a “facelift” to maintain relevancy with today’s young women and to help in attracting new support for the program.

In 2010, the program was changed from Junior Miss to Distinguished Young Women.

Short said her advice to the contestants competing on July 11 would be to enjoy the experience.

“I think it is important for the girls to really immerse themselves in the program,” Short said. “I have been honored to represent this county as a DYW, and it has opened so many doors for me.”