A long long time go, my little sister was invited to be a "Little Princess" for a family friend who was participating in a program called Junior Miss. I remember attending some rehearsals and the final performance and being so impressed! I watched people sing (some in different languages), perform theater pieces, play instruments, and dance. And as a young girl, I saw them all as graceful princesses.
Fast forward to my Junior year of high school when I had the opportunity to participate in the same Junior Miss program. I have always been a proud math nerd, an orchestra dork, quiet, introverted, and not a fan of the spotlight. I thought if I signed up, I would be a total joke, but something told me to go for it anyway. I quickly realized this program was so much more than what I saw on stage.
First, I had the impression that Junior Miss was some kind of beauty pageant, until the program director told us that 50% of the judging occurs before anyone even steps on a stage. Scholastic achievement and interview skills are the top categories used to award scholarship, followed by performance of a talent, and lastly by how you can communicate your views in front of a crowd (self-expression), and through a fitness routine that shows physical strength and endurance.
To the end, I had no idea who the judges would give the most points to. I had no idea if I was going to do well or poorly. I was totally shocked when I was named Lexington South Carolina's Junior Miss, and when I placed Top 8 at the State level of the program.
In addition to making new friends, developing key life skills like effective communication, and earning scholarship money that helped me finance my Auburn University education, maybe my most important takeaway is what this program helped my teenage self finally realize:
1. Many times the qualities we already have (academic and musical interests, church/community involvement) are far more valuable than the qualities we think we are lacking (gracefulness, style, makeup skills). Who you are on the inside is worth so much more than what everyone might see on the outside.
2. Being true to yourself will lead to more happiness than trying to be someone else. Had I tried to copy the opinions of others in my interview, or said only things I thought the judges would like to hear, I do not believe I would have have been successful. The experience encouraged me to form my own beliefs, and express them with conviction.
3. Everyone is unique and has different strengths, and those differences are beautiful. At the state level, I met many girls who won their programs because of strengths in different areas - some who excelled in academics and self-expression, others who had so much energy and talent on stage. This program encouraged and helped us Be Our Best Selves, in our own one of a kind way.
Junior Miss has since been renamed to Distinguished Young Women, a name that truly captures the spirit of this program. I had the fortune last year of finding the Lee County Distinguished Young Women program, and helping with some last minute program and award photos, and am honored to have the opportunity to work closely with the program this year through photography and community involvement. These girls don't even know how great their summer, and possibly their whole senior year will be because of DYW! Can't wait!
- xoxo -
The 2018 Distinguished Young Women program will be held on August 4th at the Opelika Performing Arts Center. If you have a current High School Junior girl in your family (Class of 2019), the deadline to sign up online is May 15th! Visit the official website here: http://lee.al.distinguishedyw.org/
If you are a Lee County business owner or other supporter of this program, we are currently seeking sponsorship within the community in order to make this year's scholarship awards bigger than ever! Sponsorship donations at different levels include recognition on the Lee County website, advertisement space in the program book, special recognition during the DYW program, your name or business/logo printed on the DYW t-shirt, opportunity to present one of the awards on-stage during the DYW program, and complimentary admission for yourself and guests. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.