Gilbert to compete for DYWG title July 30
by Marie Nesmith
Jul 15, 2011 | 3820 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mary Clayton Gilbert. Louis Tonsmeire/Special
Mary Clayton Gilbert. Louis Tonsmeire/Special
Between attending the Georgia 4-H State Congress' four-day event and competing in the Distinguished Young Women of Georgia Scholarship Program, the next two weeks will be a flurry of activity for Mary Clayton Gilbert.

"They are going to be very busy weeks," she said, referring to the events, which both will be held in Marietta. "I have been preparing for them like crazy. I'm very excited to be partaking in both events. The first one is State Congress and I am a state representative for Georgia 4-H. So this event I will be helping lead the banquet. I will be representing Georgia 4-H to the different donors of 4-H and different people who are there who give scholarship money to 4-H'ers.

"And it's a statewide event for people who have placed well in their district level competitions. I competed in the vocal competition for the Northwest District of 4-H, so now this next week I will be competing for the state level of the competition, and if I win first place that means I am a master 4-H'er. So every 4-H'er is in a different area competing to be a master 4-H'er."

Following the Georgia 4-H's State Congress' offerings that conclude July 22, Gilbert will participate in weeklong activities with the Distinguished Young Women program. If she were to win, she would receive the medallion from Caroline Lloyd, the third Bartow County representative to claim the state title.

According to a news release from the DYW, "The mission of Distinguished Young Women, formerly America's Junior Miss, is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent.

"Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Ala., Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. It has provided life-changing experiences for more than 700,000 young women across the country and more than $93 million in cash scholarships at the local, state and national level. In addition to cash scholarships, Distinguished Young Women participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from almost 200 colleges and universities."

On July 30, Gilbert -- the 17-year-old daughter of Dr. Tom and Regina Gilbert of Cartersville -- will compete 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). To be held at the Cobb Civic Center's Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, the program is a preliminary for the national program in Mobile, Ala., where more than $100,000 in cash scholarships will be dispersed next summer.

"There's times when I get really excited, and then other times I get really overwhelmed," Gilbert said. "Overall, it's just a really anxious feeling, but I've been working hard. I've been making sure to practice my fitness routine every day. I've been practicing my talent every day. I've been doing research for my interview every day. So I'm just really doing my best to be prepared and to represent Bartow County well."

In February, Gilbert advanced to the state contest by becoming the first Distinguished Young Woman of Bartow County and won a total of $1,900 in cash scholarships. Along with the title, Gilbert also received awards in the scholastics, fitness, self-expression and talent categories. For the talent segment, Gilbert showcased her vocal skills, singing "Breathe" from the musical "In the Heights," which she will repeat at the state competition.

"I really like the fact that it has pushed me to be my best self," Gilbert said. "That's really what the whole program is for. It's something I've been looking forward to since I was in eighth grade, when my older sister competed. It's something that I've been [saying] 'All right, Mom, that's what I want to do, that's what I want to be.'

"And so I strive to do well in school. I strive to do a lot of community service. I strive to do a lot of leadership. I strive to participate well in different activities to help me work on my talent. And that's one thing that I've really been working hard on really all through high school. So that's what I've enjoyed is just being able to be my best self in every area. And it's not just since I won the title, but it's been even before that time."

A rising 12th-grade homeschooled student, Gilbert is preparing to partake in the dual enrollment program at Kennesaw State University. Some of her current and past achievements include: 4-H State Board officer, 4-H Northwest District president, Honor Roll at Living Science, 4-H Master Consumer Judging, first place in Georgia 4-H Project Achievement PA-Vocal and ambassador for 4-H Health Rocks.

Her performing arts experience includes being an ensemble singer in "The Sound of Music" at The Fox Theatre, attending Interlochen Arts Camp Musical Theatre Workshop; capturing lead roles in The Grand Theatre's "Footloose" and Christian Youth Theatre's "Camp Rock;" and being selected for American Ballet Theatre Intensive, Allstate Chorus, Steps of Faith's Advanced Company, and an assistant director and choreographer for The Grand Theatre's camps.

"She's a very outgoing girl, very involved in a lot of things," said Myra Hufstetler, chairman of the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program. "[She] always has a lot going on and seems to just thrive on that. She's kind of a triple threat as far as singing, dancing, voice. So I think she's going to do a great job with her talent.

"Also, I think she'll do really well in the interview and the self-expression portion of the competition because she's very well-spoken. She knows a lot about what's going on in the world around her. She's got a lot of opinions and she's not afraid to express her opinions on things. I know it's a cliché but she's just really well-rounded."

On July 30, a matinee show will start at 1:30 p.m., followed by the evening program at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 for both offerings, and to attend the individual shows the cost is $20 for the matinee and $25 for the evening show. Attendees may purchase tickets -- cash or check only -- when the doors open 30 minutes prior to the performances.

For more information about the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program, visit