“It’s always nice to be a first. I really hope that my win helps other minorities maybe come out and participate in Distinguished Young Women, but win or not win [or] if I was the first or not the first, it was just such a great experience to take [part] in,” she said. “... I love spending time with the girls.
“I usually have a pretty busy schedule so my friends tend to be like the people I’m immediately seeing. So this is giving me the time where I can [meet] other girls in my community and we just had so much fun together.”
On Sunday, the Woodland High School junior competed in the areas of scholastic achievement, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression, winning the 2014 Bartow County DYW title and a total of $2,100 in scholarship funds. Along with the $1,300 grand prize, she also received four $200 scholarships in the scholastics, fitness, talent and self-expression categories. For her talent, she performed a tap dancing routine.
In addition to Rucker, the program at The Grand Theatre in Cartersville featured eight other high school junior participants: Cathryn Farmer, Excel Christian Academy; Holly Nunn, Woodland High School; Bethany Harmon, Cass High School; Gabrielle Brown, Woodland High School; Ansley-Regan Latner, Cartersville High School; Sarah Hyde, Woodland High School; Laura Cottongim, Cartersville High School; and Caroline Moore, Excel Christian Academy.
Joining Rucker — the daughter of Donald and Tanya Rucker of Cartersville — in the top three positions at the local competition were Farmer, first honoree, $900, and Harmon, second honoree, $700. Also receiving $200 scholarships were Harmon, scholastics; Nunn, fitness, talent and Be Your Best Self; Farmer, self-expression; and Cottongim, Spirit of DYW.
“Honestly, I feel like everyone says that they’re surprised but I really was,” Rucker said, referring to capturing the title. “I couldn’t eat or sleep or anything the night before. After I got the third award I kind of felt a little good about it, like I thought I might win. When they called my name, it was like the world stopped. I couldn’t believe it.”
Regarded as a well-rounded student, Rucker’s achievements and activities include maintaining a 4.0 G.P.A., Student of the Month for January 2013, Miss Woodland winner, Governor’s Honors Program State finalist in Theatre, Best Dancer in C.A.T.S. for two consecutive years, Outstanding Theatre Sophomore, Accelerated Math 1 Student, ninth grade theater student, 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, secretary of the Thespian Society sophomore year, Wildcats for Kids and chorus member.
“I think she did extremely well,” said Myra Hufstetler, director for the DYW of Bartow County program. “I feel like it’s a cliche, I say this about each of our winners, but this program really is about who is the best all-around and Brooke showed that with the categories that she won, like scholastics, fitness, self-expression and talent. [They] are the only four that we give category awards for and she won in each of those.
“I thought she was just an excellent representative of all the girls. They were all really, really good. [I] wasn’t sure what was going to happen this year but Brooke did come in on top. You did see her throughout the program just shining. She’s just got a beautiful air about her. You’re just drawn to her.”
In July, Rucker will compete in the DYW of Georgia program in Marietta. The local DYW program, formerly known as Bartow County Junior Miss, has produced five state winners: Mary Jon Bradley Garrison, 1958; Abbey Hufstetler, 2009; Caroline Lloyd, 2011; Mary Clayton Gilbert, 2012; and Avian Brown, 2013.
“She’s going to be a wonderful representative and I am so pleased that we do have our first black American [winner],” Hufstetler said. “I’ve known her family for a few years now and she’s just going to ... really have a great influence on our community.”