But it isn’t about their beauty, at least from a physical sense. And it isn’t just about winning.
It’s about the total experience. It’s about the deserved opportunity for college scholarships that could launch these high school rising seniors into a welcoming new world of higher education. And it’s about “Be Your Best Self.”
In short, the “Be Your Best Self” program — which most accurately defines what the Distinguished Young Woman program is all about — is comprised of five key facets:
1. Be healthy;
2. By ambitious;
3. Be involved;
4. Be responsible; and
5. Be studious.
Katie Ward of Chattanooga, who is the reigning Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee and who competed at the national level earlier this summer, is playing a key role in this week’s program. She is serving as a voice of Distinguished Young Woman, but likewise she is the face of “Be Your Best Self.” She’ll be taking this message Thursday afternoon to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland where she will encourage area youngsters to be their best.
This week’s DYW program, which is being held in Cleveland for the fifth consecutive year, is challenging its young contestants on five levels: Self-Expression, Fitness, Interview, Talent and Scholastic Scores. This is why we mentioned earlier the DYW “total experience” which runs parallel to the “Be Your Best Self” theme.
Kay Free, who this year is succeeding Charles and Traci Fant in the DYW chairmanship role, summed it up best in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner that was published in Sunday’s edition. She told us, “These girls are very special girls. Beauty is not a part of this competition in any way. We are looking at scholastic and fitness. Talent is important, but so is self-expression and interview.”
This is one of the strengths of the DYW program. It calls upon the “total” contestant. Yet we also believe this. To a degree, it does involve beauty — but it is a beauty not of the face, but of the mind, the heart and the soul. It is one that radiates from within. In our way of thinking, an internal beauty will accent all criteria whether it is self-expression, fitness, interview, talent or scholastic scores. And this defines the Distinguished Young Woman program.
And it leads to a sense of empowerment that is unrivaled in the lives of these young ladies.
This year’s Tennessee DYW, who will be handing over the reins at Saturday evening’s finals at Lee University’s Dixon Center, is one who knows best.
Miss Ward told our newspaper in a prior interview, “What’s so great about the program itself is it celebrates your strengths, but challenges you to get better at the areas that you are not so great at.”
She added, “I kind of try to take a holistic approach and that is something that I love about [the DYW program]. It is more than just about finding the pretty face, finding the perfect person ... it’s about finding that all-around girl.”
All-around says it best.
These youngsters are enjoying a full week of activities while in Cleveland: rehearsals in the mornings, rehearsals in the afternoons, volunteer activities at the Salvation Army and Garden Plaza, a breakfast visit with the Bradley Sunrise Rotary and interviews with the judges.
And of course, the competition.
Preliminaries begin Friday at 7 p.m. Finals will be Saturday, also at 7. Tickets are $25 per night or $45 for both nights. Tickets may be purchased at Perry’s Petals, Orange Blossom Boutique or at the Dixon Center ticket counter. For more information, contact Tonya Dyer at 423-716-3554.
Our community has again opened its heart to a group of Tennessee’s most endearing teens. In turn, 18 wonderful young women have opened their hearts to Cleveland.
We wish them well Friday and Saturday.
One will be named 2014 Tennessee Distinguished Young Woman. But all are proven winners.