Though it started out with some technical difficulties, the 26 Distinguished Young Women contestants meeting each other for the first time as a group at Cleveland State Community College did not …
Though it started out with some technical difficulties, the 26 Distinguished Young Women contestants meeting each other for the first time as a group at Cleveland State Community College did not let the problems dampen their spirits or remove their smiles.
Having to move from one portion of the college campus to another, due to a lack of air conditioning, and not having a working microphone for those doing Sunday’s presentations, did not faze the girls. They were just as happy to get to meet their fellow competitors.
Some already knew each other, and many said they had already spoken with 2017’s Distinguished Young Woman Halla Maynard of Cleveland.
“I have spoken with Halla. She had nothing but good words to say about the program, and about all the friends that she made,” said Alexis Brown, representing Red Bank.
Jodee George, Miss Cumberland Valley, was the first DYW contestant to arrive Sunday afternoon at the school.
“I am very excited to get to meet and know these girls here,” George said. “I actually knew one of them (Jessica McChesney) who is from Tullahoma, but getting to know the others — I am very excited about that.”
George has quite an interesting talent she will perform at the DYW competition. She will dance, which is not unusual, but her dance routine will be to the song “East Bound and Down” from the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie.
Some said they plan to dance as their talent, while others will sing, play the piano or give interpretative monologues.
Elizabeth Kaylor, principal at Taylor Elementary School who competed in the DYW program in 1990 (coming in first runner-up to DYW program coordinator Tracy Fant), had a multi-faceted talent presentation, and knows the girls who perform this week will do extremely well.
“My participation in this program was the first time I had ever been interviewed. It really helped me refine those interview skills that have paid off throughout my life with numerous job opportunities, scholarships, and learning how to prepare for an interview and remain calm even when you are feeling very nerve-wracked, and those skills paid big dividends to me and have really helped me,” said Kaylor, who participated as Elizabeth Lee.
She will serve as one of the hosts for the girls, with Maynard actually staying with her during the program.
Host families in Cleveland have at least two of the girls staying with them during the competition, with one family actually having four of the girls staying with them. Each host family was introduced at the presentation Sunday, and got to visit with the girls who will eventually stay with them for the week.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland spoke to the girls as they prepared to meet each other and their host families. He told the contestants about Cleveland and how much he appreciates them being a part of something special in this city.
“We are very fortunate to have this in our community. We are very fortunate to have the host families who open their homes to these young ladies,” Rowland said. “I spoke with some of the girls, and they are all excited to be here.”
The Distinguished Young Women program is important to Rowland.
“It was known as the Junior Miss, and my daughter competed in that,” the mayor said. “She passed away two months ago from cancer, so this program is very close to us, and that is why we are very honored to be a part of this.”
The girls were told about the schedule for the week, including lots of practice times on stage and even dress rehearsals, but there are also times that they get to have fun with each other. One of the first will be a pool party tonight where they will better get to know their fellow DYW program mates.
“There will be a lot of work to do, but there will also be lots of fun,” said Fant. She noted much of the fun will not be limited to the contestants meeting each other and any special plans the host families have with them.
“I know we have had our piano tuned up, because Jasmine (Ngo, who is representing Cleveland) plays piano. We want to hear her play at our house,” said Rebecca McIntire. She and her husband, Dr. Ed McIntire, are serving as one of the host families.
The first preliminary program for this year’s DYW program will be on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Dixon Center on the Lee University campus. Finals will be the following night at 7, also at the Dixon Center.
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