State chairpersons Charles and Traci Fant welcomed the 23 participants, telling them they were going to have an amazing week. The welcoming reception was hosted by the Museum Center at Five Points.
“We want our girls to have the best possible experience,” Charles Fant said.
The chairpersons also reassured parents their daughters would be safe and taken care of by their host families. The girls were also reassured, and told they would be treated “like princesses.”
The reception also served as a welcome reception for Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee and America for 2011, Katye Brock.
“You are in for a wonderful, wonderful week,” Brock told this year’s participants.
Charles Fant said Brock was only the second national winner from Tennessee in the 54 years of the program.
During the reception, Brock received a resolution from the state Legislature recognizing her achievements; it was presented by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland. She also received a framed copy of an article announcing her national win from her local program coordinators Donna Brewer and Karen Lawson. Brewer thanked Brock for being who she was and being a good role model for other participants.
Rowland also presented a resolution declaring July 17-23 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee Week.
The reception was a departure from how the state program had been started in the past, according to Traci Fant. The reception was sponsored by Traci’s former host “mom” Sherri Bishop-Galbraith.
Bishop-Galbraith told the Class of 2012 that in the next week they would find that some of the participants are better than them at certain things.
“I want to remind you to ... surround yourself with greatness,” Bishop-Galbraith said.
She said this is an opportunity to learn from fellow participants and the host families.
Bishop-Galbraith is also a former Tennessee Junior Miss (the former name for DYW).
The opening number for the program will also be a little different this year, Traci Fant said. This year, in addition to Brock and the participants, the dance will include two “has-beens” (the “title” given to former participants of the program). “Has-beens” also assist the state chairpersons throughout the week.
Each person who spoke took time to thank all of those who had been a part of making the reception and the state program possible. Traci Fant said it takes a good team to make the state program possible.
The reception was the first time the girls met their host families in person. After the reception, each contestant went home with her host family to prepare for the week ahead. Rehearsals for Saturday’s Finals began today.