“It was complete shock. I honestly thought that the girl who ended up being first runner-up was going to win,” Rucker said. “So I was waiting for my number to be called when it was time for that title to be announced. So when she was called, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, have I actually won this?’ When they said my name, I was just stunned. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I actually did it.’ I could not believe it.
“I’m so blessed to get to represent our county when I go off to nationals because our community has done so much for me, starting off from a young age and then coming all the way to this. So it’s going to be so nice to give back in a way and go represent them. And I’m so glad that I get the honor to do that.”
On Friday and Saturday, Rucker — the 17-year-old daughter of Donald and Tanya Rucker — competed in the areas of fitness (15 percent of the overall score), interview (25 percent), scholastics (20 percent), self-expression (15 percent) and talent (25 percent).
Along with the title netting her a $5,000 cash scholarship, she also won four preliminary awards for fitness, interview, self-expression and talent, increasing her state winnings to $6,200. In the talent category, Rucker performed a tap routine that she choreographed to the overture from the musical “Chicago.”
“The best thing [about the state program] is getting to meet all of the different girls,” said Rucker, who was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Bartow County in March. “These are girls that I probably would have never gotten the chance to meet in my life if it hadn’t been for this program. And they were all so wonderful. They were so talented.
“There wasn’t a single person I felt like I couldn’t come up to and talk to. They were just the nicest, most sincere people ever.”
Held at the Cobb Civic Center’s Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, the scholarship program is a preliminary for the national competition in Mobile, Ala., where more than $130,000 in cash scholarships will be dispersed next summer.
“Anytime Brooke was on stage, you just couldn’t help but watch her,” said Myra Hufstetler, chairwoman of the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program. “She has a wonderful presence and energy about her that just draws you to her. Everyone in attendance from Bartow County was so excited because Brooke really stood out during the whole competition. We are very proud of her.”
A rising senior at Woodland High School, Rucker maintains a 4.0 GPA while being involved in numerous activities. Some of her current and past achievements include: WHS Student of the Month for January 2013, Miss Woodland winner, Governor’s Honors Program state finalist in Theater, Best Dancer in Cartersville’s Artistic Talent Showcase from 2011 to 2013, 100 percent Award in C.A.T.S., Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, C.A.T.S. Leadership Award, C.A.T.S. dance captain and secretary of the Thespian Society her sophomore year. She also is involved in Wildcats for Kids, WHS Chorale, WHS Theater Department, Student Council, Act I Community Theater and National Honor Society.
With Rucker’s accomplishment, Bartow County’s legacy in the DYW state program continues. Beginning with Mary Jon Bradley (Garrison) capturing the first contest — formerly known as America’s Junior Miss scholarship program — in 1958, other state winners have included Abbey Hufstetler, class of 2009; Caroline Lloyd, class of 2011; Mary-Clayton Gilbert, class of 2012; and Avian Brown, class of 2013, with the final two placing in the top 10 at America’s DYW National Finals.
“Our team believes very strongly that we want each girl to be her very best,” Hufstetler said. “We have wonderful community involvement and support that steps up year after year to help each girl that comes through our program to improve their skills in all areas.
“Each of our young ladies have been very smart and talented, yet they are also very different. We don’t try to mold them to be something they are not, we simply try to help each girl meet their potential.”
For more information about the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program, visit www.dywbartow.wordpress.com.