They are the contestants of the 2012 Tennessee Distinguished Young Women program (formerly Junior Miss) hosted for the third consecutive year by our welcoming community.
They have received tips, encouragement and a warm friendship from Kayte Brock, the reigning 2011 Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee and America during a long-anticipated welcoming reception at the Museum Center at Five Points.
They have met, embraced and shared precious times and soft moments with their host Bradley County families.
They have rehearsed seemingly non-stop on a gym floor at Arnold Elementary School and on the spacious stage of the Dixon Center on the Lee University campus.
They have performed thoughtful hours of community service at The Garden Plaza at Cleveland, a retirement and assisted living facility of Life Care Centers of America.
They have adorned themselves in cowgirl hats and Western attire while enjoying an old fashioned country hoe-down at the home of Sarah and Jonathan Cantrell.
They have conducted themselves with grace and eloquence in personal interviews with a selected panel of program judges.
They have relished in brunches, lunches and dinners in settings ranging from private homes to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church to a pair of Cleveland’s landmark eateries like Gondolier and The Spot.
They have extended hands of friendship and hugs of warmth to countless Cleveland and Bradley County residents whose paths they have crossed in the excitement leading to the program’s start before a crowded Dixon Center on Friday night.
In a brief and well-deserved down time, they will relax tonight in a pool party at the home of Dr. John and Sheryl Jaggers as a prelude to two nights of challenging competition. Yet even this won’t get under way until the toils of two more exhausting rehearsals Friday at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
We approach the pinnacle of a dream-come-true week in the lives of this group of impressionable young women who are representing scores of proud family members from across the state.
We wish them well in Friday’s preliminaries and Saturday’s finals. The drama unfolds both evenings at 7 p.m.
All are rising seniors who have represented their schools and communities splendidly in their one-week home away from home.
They include Bethany Welch, Baylee Norris, Sally Harrison, Kiona Reese, Jessica Crisp, Krista Ellis, Emily Myers, Kourtney Stanton, Kaitlyn Ray, Victoria Williams, Natalie Rayfield, Emily Fain, Diana Proffitt, Victoria Jocsing, Ariana Kim (our community’s reigning Distinguished Young Woman of Cleveland), Kiki Carson, Casey Johnson, Jessie Richards, Lindsey Limerick, Madeline Johnson, Nicole Patton, Tarah Hooks and Lexee Hill.
We encourage area residents to attend both evenings of magic; certainly, to support our hometown girl [Ariana], but also as a show of encouragement and community favor toward all 23 young women who have shown the marked courage and endearing passion to open their lives — and their hearts — to the stage of public scrutiny.
The very best of luck to all contestants — each of whom in our view already wears a jeweled crown, that which is befitting of a proven winner and compassionate soul.