The scholarship program has positively impacted the lives of local young women since it first began in 1958. Four of the last five state winners of Distinguished Young Women of Georgia have been from Bartow County. To show the community appreciation for its continuous support, the theme for this year’s production is “This Is Our Town.”
“Cartersville and Bartow County offers young people a variety of opportunities, good schools, great extracurricular activities, a family friendly environment and most of all the people in our community support each other,” said Myra Hufstetler, chairman for the local scholarship program. “This is my fourth year as director of the local program and time after time the community has stepped up to support these girls. The community backs them financially for scholarships and through giving of their time and talents as well.”
Participants in this year’s DYW program include Gabrielle Brown, daughter of Drew and Darlene Brown, Woodland High School; Laura Cottongim, daughter of David and Michelle Cottongim, Cartersville High School; Cathryn Farmer, daughter of Tom and Cindy Farmer, Excel Christian Academy; Bethany Harmon, daughter of Dallas and Becky Harmon, Cass High School; Sarah Hyde, daughter of Richard and Lisbeth Hyde, Woodland High School; Ansley-Regan Latner, daughter of Clay and Kimberly Young, Cartersville High School; Caroline Moore, daughter of Jim and Terri Moore, Excel Christian Academy; Holly Nunn, daughter of Tim and Angela Nunn, Woodland High School and Brooke Rucker, daughter of Donald and Tanya Rucker, Woodland High School.
“Each year the girls in the program participate in at least one giving back event,” Hufstetler said. “The girls visit the Boys and Girls club to share the National Outreach Program [motto] ‘Be Your Best Self.’ Some of the girls also helped with the Every Child’s a Star fundraiser for Advocates for Children. One of the girls was a participant and others took up tickets and ushered for the program.”
The National Outreach Program, “Be Your Best Self,” encourages DYW to reach out and inspire others not only in the community, but nationwide, to make a commitment to be the best they can personally be.
“There are five elements to the ‘Be Your Best Self’ program and they are to be healthy, physically fit and drug free; be ambitious, set and achieve goals; be involved, serve your community; be responsible, live by moral and ethical principles and be studious, stay in school,” Hufstetler said.
Throughout the competition the girls will strive to be their best selves, while showcasing their skills and assets. They will be competing in five sererate categories including: scholastics (20 percent), interview (25 percent), fitness (15 percent), talent (25 percent) and self-expression (15 percent). Prior to the event, the scholastic and interview portions will have already been completed. Scholastics is based on a variety of things including GPA, standardized test scores and rigor of study. The scores are being judged by a variety of Georgia colleges.
To keep with the theme “This Is Our Town,” last year’s Distinguished Young Woman of Bartow County, Avian Brown, will be playing her violin to the opening song, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi and Sugarland.
Brown has continued her winning streak, becoming the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia, and will represent Bartow County and the state of Georgia this summer at nationals.
“Distinguished Young Women has been completely life changing to me because it has taught me to really work hard for something,” said Brown. “Being able to win local last year, doing something that I normally wouldn’t do was really cool for me, and then to be able to work really hard throughout the summer on different things like interviewing and fitness and talent and all the categories that we participate in and then being able to go and amazingly, somehow, win state, that was just a really cool experience for me. I know the skills that I learned are things that I’m going to take with me for a very long time.”
Brown is a senior at North Cobb Cristian Academy and will attend Auburn University in the fall. She says DYW has played a huge roll in her decision and when she learned Auburn offers a scholarship for any statewide DYW, her decision was made. She will receive a four-year, renewable scholarship of $5,000 per year totalling $20,000 by the time she graduates. Another $8,000 in scholarship money she won between both the local and state competitions will go toward her education.
“Staying in state would definitely be a lot cheaper but having Distinguished Young Women, the finances for that, that’s been an incredible blessing that I am so thankful for,” Brown said.
She has been attending rehearsals and providing support to this year’s competitors. She hopes to follow in the steps of Mary Clayton Gilbert, class of 2012 DYW program, who helped during rehearsals when she was competing at the local level.
“[To this year’s competitors] I would just say have fun with it and just do your best. The whole platform of Distinguished Young Women is be your best self and if you feel like you are being your best self then that is all you can do and whoever wins is going to have a great time and all the other girls are definitely going to get a lot out of it anyways too. I’m just really excited for them to be participating,” said Brown.
Hufstetler says that while everyone does not win a title, the goal is to get each participant out of their comfort zone and for them to realize that no matter what happens she has become better because of it. Some girls come into the competition lacking confidence, some have dreamed of performing on stage for others, but whatever the reason the hope is that they all achieve their goal and know they were their best self.
“The Distinguished Young Women program celebrates young women,” said Hufstetler. “It celebrates the accomplishments they have already achieved and builds relationships with other young women and leaders in our community.”
Tickets for the program are $13 and can be purchased at The Grand Theatre ticket office located at 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville, Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m. or by calling 770-386-7343.