Distinguished Young Women arrive

DYW’s theme centers on ‘Be Uniquely You’

LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 7/17/17

The 2018 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee contestants arrived Sunday for a week of activities.

Tennessee’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2017 Halla Maynard joined co-chairs Traci Fant …

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Distinguished Young Women arrive

DYW’s theme centers on ‘Be Uniquely You’


The 2018 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee contestants arrived Sunday for a week of activities.

Tennessee’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2017 Halla Maynard joined co-chairs Traci Fant and Nikki Wilks and other program coordinators, in welcoming this year’s 26 participants.

Maynard is from Cleveland, and the community’s first winner since 1992. She is also the first Bradley Central High School student to win, although four from Cleveland High School have been victorious.

Wilks grew up in Loudon, is a Lenoir City High School graduate, and represented that community in the program. She is now a resident of Memphis. Fant, of Cleveland, previously co-chaired the program with her husband, Charles, but he is now chairman of the board.

Until 2010, the DYW scholarship competition was formerly known as America’s Junior Miss.

Fant said she is amazed by the support the program has received in Cleveland in recent years. She is anticipating a tremendous event this year — a record year in the number of participants for Cleveland.

“This group of young women has very high academic scores, and is very diverse,” she said. “It is going to be a wonderful show.”

According to Fant, the mission of Distinguished Young Women is to emphasize education by providing scholarship opportunities to outstanding college-bound high school girls, and to encourage personal development in all young people.

Fant and Wilks participated in an interview last week to discuss the program, plans for the week, and their perception of what the term “distinguished” means to the activities and to the girls.

“To me, distinguished means recognizing that everyone has something to offer, and that they can contribute to society,” said Wilks. “They can pull this out of others with their talent, wisdom and speech.”

Fant, who has spent a number of years with the program, said, “I ditto what Nikki says, but there’s still a code of conduct, and how they respect themselves,” she said. “Young women are looking at what these women do.”

Fant went on to add, “State Week is hard, but the resilience and ‘stick-to-it-tiveness’ they display helps them to distinguish their character.”

The co-chairs said each of the girls brings something different to the program.

They agreed this year’s participants are scholastically strong, adding they also appear to be a very down-to-earth group. “This is our most diverse group ever,” said Fant.

“I’m anxious, and excited about watching the commonality of these girls grow throughout the week,” said the longtime program chairman.

Fant and Wilks agreed this year’s competitors are a much more balanced group geographically than in the past. Fant pointed out that with Wilks living in Memphis, and coordinating the at-large programs in that area, there are more representatives from the west end of the state than in the past. East Tennessee participants had dominated the event in the past.

One of this year’s participants is rising Walker Valley High School senior Jasmine Ngo, who will represent the local community. She plans to attend the University of Alabama, Birmingham, studying bio-medical engineering. She wants to be a general and vascular surgeon.

The welcoming ceremony was held Sunday at Cleveland State Community College’s George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center at 3535 Adkisson Drive. Following registration, the participants were introduced to host families.

The theme for this year’s competition is “Be Uniquely You.” Fant emphasized part of the determination of the 2018 Distinguished Young Woman will have been concluded prior to the start of actual competition on Friday — based on individual scores.

Scholastic credits make up 25 percent of the individual’s score. A panel of judges have already considered the scholastic credits.

Another 25 percent will be based on interviews during the week. The interview sessions will begin with a mock interview with last year’s winner, Halla Maynard.

This year’s 26 participants will be competing for more than $11,000 in college scholarships, but this will only be the tip of the iceberg.

Fant said there will once again be a special announcement during Saturday’s finals of additional scholarship presentations.

Last year, five of the participants earned $416,000 in scholarships, that being determined before the week’s competition began. They did not realize this accomplishment and honor at the start of the week, and Maynard was one of the recipients.

One university awarded $78,000 four-year grants to four of the participants, while a $104,000 scholarship went to a fifth girl, which included room and board.

Similar announcements will be forthcoming this year.

Another part of the program is life skill workshops in which the girls will participate. This will continue this year.

One workshop today will be conducted by CSCC President Dr. Bill Seymour. Seymour will advise the girls in the college interview process.

Another workshop will be at noon Wednesday. Tennessee’s Junior Miss 2000, Latricia Milburn, will instruct the girls on public speaking. The third workshop will be by Maynard at a time to be determined.

Multiple events are scheduled for participants throughout the week. Several will be at Cleveland State, some at Lee University, and others throughout the community.

Today’s schedule will include Dr. Seymour’s workshop, and a pool party. Rehearsal time will be scheduled for the girls each day.

Participants will travel to Cleveland’s Garden Plaza Retirement Community Tuesday evening for activities with the residents, and an ice cream party.

The girls will enjoy another ice cream party at Cleveland’s Baskin-Robbins on Thursday.

The girls will be at Arnold Memorial Elementary School on Tuesday morning, and will walk to the home of Joseph and Cathy Burton at lunch. They will be at Lee University on Wednesday.

The all-important interviews will begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday, and continue to Friday. Preliminary competition is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday (doors opening at 6 p.m.) at Lee University’s Dixon Center.

On Saturday evening, the program’s “has beens” (former participants) will speak briefly to the audience.

Participants will begin preparing for Saturday night’s final session at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Dixon Center. Doors will once again open at 6 p.m., with the program starting at 7 p.m.

The week-long program will conclude with the announcement of Tennessee’s 2018 Distinguished Young Woman Saturday evening.

Participants in this year’s program include:

Caitlin Munn (Marion County), Zhariah Walker (Germantown), Grace Johnson (Jefferson County), Jasmine Ngo (Cleveland), Ashley Stewart (Franklin County), Reba John (East Brainerd), Chanteria Milner (Memphis), Mia Rodriguez (Sumner County), Rose Albert (Hamilton County), Charlotte Smith (Signal Mountain), Jessica McChesney (Tullahoma), Ella Tiller (Loudon County), Carson Eskew (Smoky Mountains).

Alexis Brown (Red Bank), Jo-Hannah Valentin (Chattanooga), Macey Daniel (Soddy-Daisy), Lyrikal Jenkins (East Memphis), Christen Coyle (Shelby County), Jodee George (Cumberland Valley), Desiree Phillips (Collierville), Kolbey Ferguson (East Hamilton), Leah Humble (Sevier County), Peyton King (Music City), Melody Nolte (Loretto), Kyra Brady (Rhea County), and Karis Mitchell (McMinn County).


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