Competing against other young women 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), the state contest is held at the Cobb Civic Center's Jennie T. Anderson Theatre and is a preliminary for the national competition in Mobile, Ala., where more than $130,000 in cash scholarships are dispersed.
"The national outreach program of DYW is 'Be Your Best Self,'" said Hufstetler, director for the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program. "What I enjoy most about DYW is seeing each girl striving to be their very best. We get to see them grow so much during the six weeks of rehearsals. I love pushing the girls outside of their comfort zone so they can see just what they are capable of doing. We work with girls on their talent to build confidence and get it performance ready. Many of the girls have never performed on stage before and it can be intimidating. We also have girls that think they don't have a talent.
"My favorite story was a girl that wanted to participate, but said she couldn't because she didn't have a talent. I knew she could talk to people so we decided she should write a speech and present it for her 90-second talent. At dress rehearsal, she came in with a folded piece of notebook paper to read while she was on stage. I told her to get by herself and learn the speech and then we would work on her performing it on stage. The next night she did an awesome job and won a talent award. So no one should be afraid that they can't participate because they can't sing or dance."
Name: Myra Hufstetler
Occupation/volunteer efforts: Senior analyst, International Logistics for The Home Depot; local program director, Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County; board advisor, Northwest District 4-H Board of Directors; and board member, Georgia 4-H Advisory Board
City of residence: Cartersville
Family: Celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary this October with Keith Hufstetler. We are very proud of our two children, Abbey and Brock. They both attend the University of Georgia (GO DAWGS!) where Abbey is a senior and Brock is a sophomore.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management -- Covenant College
What is your position at The Home Depot and what led you into this line of work?
A: Senior analyst, International Logistics for The Home Depot. I have worked at The Home Depot Store Support Center (corporate office) since 2007. The Home Depot is a very strong company that has a passion for customer service, takes care of their associates and strongly encourages everyone to give back. I am very proud to work for them.
When did you become involved with the Distinguished Young Women of Bartow County program and why did you want to be a part of this organization?
A: My daughter, Abbey, participated in the program for the Class of 2009. The program was called Junior Miss before the name changed in 2010. Abbey won the title of Bartow County's Junior Miss for the Class of 2009 and then went on to win Georgia's Junior Miss for 2009. At that time, Bartow County had not had a state winner since 1958. From the experience my daughter had in the program, I was sold. I believe DYW can be a life-changing experience for high school juniors. DYW encourages girls to continue their education and provides college scholarships. The program also develops self-confidence in interviewing, public speaking, performing and building relationships. When Amy Loeffler, previous program director, and Terri Cox, previous judge's chairperson, asked me if I would be interested in becoming the new program director, I was thrilled. So in the fall of 2009, I became the new program director for Distinguished Young Women of Bartow.
What are the responsibilities of your DYW position?
A: I am a volunteer with the program and my responsibilities are to act as the overall director. I have ultimate responsibility for everything that it takes to put on the DYW Bartow program. I am responsible for making sure we have raised enough money to cover our operating costs and the $4,900 in cash scholarships, rehearsals, the overall show, and that we are following all of the national guidelines for DYW. Most importantly, I want to be sure the girls coming through our program have a transforming experience that helps them in life. I have a great team of volunteers working with me that bring expertise in graphics for the program book, financial matters, choreography, production, judges and alumnae. There is no way this program would be possible without this team.
What sets the DYW program apart from similar offerings and how does it benefit the participants?
A: Our program is different because of the cash scholarships and our focus on helping each girl to do her best. I'm not sure if people understand that in just the last five years, girls from Bartow County have received $50,900 in cash scholarships. Our local program has paid $4,900 per year for a total of $24,500 in cash scholarships and at the state and national levels they have earned an additional $26,400. There are five categories of the competition -- scholastics (20 percent), interview (25 percent), talent (25 percent), fitness (15 percent) and self expression (15 percent). DYW is not a beauty pageant. It is a scholarship program to honor young women and I fully support the decision by America's Junior Miss to change their name to Distinguished Young Women in 2010 to differentiate them from pageants. I believe the new name better portrays the program's focus.
What do you think are the keys to Bartow County's success in the state competition over the past several years?
A: I can't say enough about what my predecessors had done with the program. Everything was already in place and very organized. Our program is great because of everything that dedicated volunteers before me had put into motion. Since Abbey was Georgia's Junior Miss, we had traveled to many of the local programs around the state, had attended other state programs and of course the national program held in Mobile, Ala. We had a lot of ideas that we wanted to incorporate and bring to Bartow. Our goal in the last several years has been to really equip girls to do well, both in the program and beyond, through interview workshops, on-stage practice and community relations. I strongly believe our committee and our community are instrumental in preparing our girls for the local, state and national levels. Schools, dance studios, gyms and The Grand Theatre have opened up their stages and facilities for girls to practice fitness routines and talent presentations. Leaders in the arts have worked with girls to become comfortable on stage. Various leaders in academics, professionals and community volunteers have come alongside our committee to work with our girls on their interview skills. It really comes down to the resources our county offers to our girls that I believe has led them to success.
How do girls get involved in the program?
A: DYW is for girls who are in their junior year in high school. Our orientation is usually in November and rehearsals begin the first of January. Girls can check with their guidance counselors for more information or visit distinguishedyw.org. We also have a Little Sister program where the girls that are participants invite two girls to be their Little Sisters for the program. Little Sisters are freshman or sophomores girls that attend a couple of rehearsals and do a simple routine during the show. Mary-Clayton Gilbert and Avian Brown were both Little Sisters.
What are some of your other volunteer efforts in the community and why do you feel it is important to give back?
A: I am also a volunteer for Bartow County, Northwest District and Georgia 4-H. I began participating in 4-H in Floyd County when I was 10 years old and have loved it ever since. Most people think 4-H is about agriculture and kids that live on a farm. While 4-H definitely has its roots in agriculture and still has strong ties to agriculture, that is not all that is available in 4- H. Youth learn about communication skills, healthy lifestyles, citizenship, leadership and more through the hands-on programs that 4-H offers. I have seen my own children and others gain independence and confidence. Since they interact with so many 4-H'ers and adults from across the state, they have a tremendous network of contacts. Both of my children were officers on the local, district and state levels and my son was president of Georgia 4-H in 2009-2010. I would also like to point out that three of Bartow's Distinguished Young Women of Georgia were 4-H'ers. To use one of our previous 4-H program themes, "If life is a highway, 4-H is where you learn to drive!"
Though I have been involved in several capacities in the past, this year I really got involved with "Every Child's a Star" as a part of the steering committee. I love that this year the event was coordinated by a high school senior and one of our Bartow and Georgia DYW representatives, Mary-Clayton Gilbert. I was thrilled to be a part of her team as the judge's chairman as she worked towards her goal of putting on an entertaining, high-quality show that raised over $8,000 for [Advocates for Children]. I have been a high school Sunday school teacher at Tabernacle Baptist Church for eight years and I'm a part of the media ministry. It has been important to me to give back to organizations that have given so much to me and to my family. Our church, 4-H and DYW have all made a huge impact on our family, and it is important to me to do what little I can to help those groups continue to be positive forces in our community.
What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
A: My greatest accomplishment is another team effort -- raising two wonderful children. My husband and I are blessed with a wonderful family and great friends who have helped us in this process. Both of my children are outstanding, godly young people who others enjoy being around. What more could a parent ask for?
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Excited, dedicated, persevering.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: It's too hard to choose. I love being at The Grand Theatre, going to a football game on a Friday night, watching my son play tennis at Dellinger Park, being at Tabernacle Baptist Church and just being at home.