“I’m definitely nervous,” Rucker said prior to departing for Mobile, Ala., Sunday. “This competition came a lot faster than I thought it was going to, but I’m also just really excited to get to meet all the other contestants. I think getting to meet all the other girls [who are] part of the competition is what makes it so much fun.
“... I’m just so thankful and honored that I get to be the face of Georgia and I get to go represent not just my community but also my state. I just hope that I do everybody proud.”
From June 26 to 28, the 18-year-old daughter of Donald and Tanya Rucker will compete in the 57th annual DYW National Finals at the Mobile Civic Center Theater in Alabama. Along with the 49 other contestants, she will be evaluated in the areas of fitness (15 percent of overall score), interview (25 percent), talent (25 percent), scholastics (20 percent) and self-expression (15 percent). In the talent category, Rucker will perform a tap routine that she choreographed to the overture from the musical “Chicago.”
Formerly known as America’s Junior Miss scholarship program, America’s DYW will disperse more than $150,000 in cash scholarships at the national contest.
“I think Brooke will represent Georgia and Bartow County very well in Mobile,” said Abbey Hufstetler, Georgia’s Junior Miss for 2009 and co-director of the local DYW program. “Brooke carries herself so well, and I feel that her confidence will really help her shine at the national program. Brooke is passionate about seeing young women realize their self-worth and develop greater self-confidence, and I feel like she does an incredible job of modeling that attitude in a humble way. This carries through in all phases of the Distinguished Young Women program, and I feel like it will set her apart.
“Brooke truly has a natural talent for performing, and her vivacious spirit and stage presence make her shine from the moment she steps onto the stage. I am certain that her technical ability, show-stopping choreography and eye-catching personality will really set her apart [at] the national level.”
A 2014 graduate of Woodland High School, Rucker was a well-rounded student. Some of her achievements included 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 has been involved in Wildcats for Kids, WHS Chorale, WHS Theater Department, Student Council, Act I Community Theater and National Honor Society.
As Rucker prepares to take the national stage, Bartow County’s legacy in the DYW 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 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.
“There’s no doubt that this program is transformational, no matter whether you’re participating at the local, state or national level,” Hufstetler said. “At each step along the way, I’ve experienced and seen others gain valuable life skills, whether that be through interviewing, developing self-confidence or learning to interact with others of various ages. Participating in the national finals in Mobile has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life in so many ways. The great thing is, I have seen each young woman throughout my experience with the program walk away with something different. Yes, there are common themes, such as friendships, interview skills and a sense of accomplishment, but I think it also gives you the opportunity at a personal level to learn more about who you are as an individual.
“Participating in the national finals paved the way to so many positive and beautiful experiences and relationships. I am still reaping the benefits of my experience in Mobile five years ago in so many areas of my life, and I know that others who have participated in the program would say the same. Whether you come home with a new medallion or not, the program affords its participants far more than scholarship money. For that, I will be forever grateful.”
Visit www.DistinguishedYW.org for more information about the upcoming competition or to watch a live webcast of the DYW National Finals June 28 at 8 p.m. EST. Images of state representatives participating in various DYW-related activities can be viewed at www.fpvision.com.