Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County
by Marie Nesmith
Feb 06, 2011 | 2931 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Inspiring its participants to "Be Your Best Self," the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program has become a staple for high school juniors over the past 50 years. Formerly known as Bartow County Junior Miss, this year's production will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at The Grand Theatre.

"The Be Your Best Self program is our national outreach program," said Myra Hufstetler, chairman for the local scholarship program. "There's five components of it and those are to be healthy, to be ambitious, to be involved, to be responsible and to be studious. The girls -- throughout this program, we have presented that to them as well because we want them to learn those things.

"Also last year and this year, we've presented that to the Boys & Girls Clubs. We did that back on [Jan.] 25 ... and [participated in] crafts to try to reinforce all those five points. So we're wanting to make sure that we're giving back to the community, too, and that the girls understand that an important part of being well-rounded is giving back to your community."

During the upcoming competition, 11 young women will vie for $4,900 in scholarships, showcasing their talents in the areas of academics, talent, fitness, interview and self-expression. The participants will include Amanda Haney, daughter of Jerry and Kim Haney, Excel Christian Academy; Erica Garland, daughter of Joel and Donna Garland, Excel Christian Academy; Claire Woods, daughter of Bill and Tracy Woods, Cartersville High School; Sara Whitener, daughter of Jackie Whitener and Linda Whitener, Woodland High School; McAllie Givens, daughter of Darrell Givens and Pam Givens, Cartersville High School; Mary-Clayton Gilbert, daughter of Tom and Regina Gilbert, Independent Studies Academy; Johannah Nunez, daughter of Omar and Kristi Nunez, Woodland High School; Bonnie Rowland, daughter of Lori Pruitt, Darlington School; Heather Miller, daughter of Nancy Miller, Cartersville High School; Loren Kirkland, daughter of Dennis and Christie Graham and Todd Kirkland, Woodland High School; and Sarah Keefe, daughter of Doug and Krista Keefe, Excel Christian Academy.

While the contestants will compete in scholastics (20 percent) and a 10-minute interview (25 percent) prior to the public competition, on Saturday they will be judged on talent (25 percent), fitness (15 percent) and self-expression (15 percent). The winner will receive a $1,300 scholarship to attend any accredited college or university and advance to the Distinguished Young Women of Georgia program this summer.

Sporting a theme of "Distinguished Young Women -- It's Magic," the local program will feature several appearances by past contestants, who will be affectionately referred to as "Has Beens," including Bartow's first Junior Miss, Mary Jon Bradley Garrison; Hufstetler's daughter, Abbey; and the current reigning Junior Miss, Caroline Lloyd. With the three women being previous local and state winners, they highlight Bartow County's rich history with the Distinguished Young Women organization and its predecessor, Junior Miss.

"I got a chance to work with the girls in the rehearsals this year, so I really got to know them well," said Lloyd, a senior at Woodland High School, whose winnings at the state and local levels totaled more than $8,000 in scholarship funds. "They're a great bunch of girls. It's just so fun to be around them and [see] how they're preparing and getting excited this year. [During rehearsals] I helped demonstrate the fitness routine and I choreographed the opening number and taught that to them.

"[The past year] -- it's really been a journey. I've learned so much about presenting myself in interviews and onstage as well, [learning] how to talk to people in public as, like, a public figure almost. So it's been really exciting and I've loved every bit of it."

As the mother of a previous winner, Hufstetler has seen firsthand how the scholarship program benefits its participants. Throughout the production, the students learn many new skills, ranging from interviewing to public speaking, all of which she said helps strengthen their confidence.

"I think they benefit greatly in the area of confidence," Hufstetler said. "It's probably the biggest thing they get out of it because a lot of the girls who participate have never done anything like this. [They] have never been through an interview before. Even [with] the [dancers], they've been onstage but they've never spoken onstage before. So they're very leery of that and not very comfortable with that at all but for six weeks, we practice all those type of things.

"We've been working with them on interviews. Alan Sanders from WBHF has held a workshop interview with them that they really enjoyed. And [we are] just trying to get them prepared for different things that they're maybe not used to, [such as] preparing for the interview, talking about world events. [It is] important that you know what all is going on around you, that you know more than your small world. ... our winner two years ago, Hannah Ponders, tells a great story of the confidence that she learned and how she'd never spoken before to groups and now she is very comfortable with that. We [have] also Anna Curtis coming back this year who was one of our talent winners last year, who when she first talked to me about being in the program said, 'I don't have a talent' and I [kept] telling her, 'Oh, you do. I've heard you speak before. You need to get up and give a speech.' She thought that was silly, but she got up and did a speech and won talent."

Tickets for the local program will cost $13 per person and will be available in advance or at the door. For more information or to obtain tickets, call 770-386-7343 or visit The Grand Theatre ticket office, 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville, Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m.