DYW contestants bring smiles to Garden Plaza
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Jul 19, 2013 | 1083 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Notes of love to the elderly
RESIDENT OF GARDEN PLAZA Beth Ellis sits and chats with Laura Kate Evans of Cleveland, after watching Thursday’s song and dance routine from the Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee. Banner photos, DONNA KAYLOR
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Seniors at the Garden Plaza in Cleveland were touched emotionally and entertained by the Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee who came to the retirement and assisted living facility with handwritten notes and a truckload of talent.

Kay Free, the Tennessee State Distinguished Young Women chairperson, said she thought it was a nice touch for the young ladies to write something memorable to the seniors they have come to appreciate over the years.

“The interaction with seniors will not only inspire them — in return, it inspires the DYW participants,” she said. “The young ladies each year look forward to our community involvement. The 2014 Distinguished Young Women entertained the residents along with offering them handwritten notes and a picture of the contestant to give a more personal connection.”

Not only is she excited about the local community service being provided by the girls in the program, but Free said she is thrilled at all the anticipation surrounding the event.

“It is a pleasure to host the state program,” she said. “The excitement is building day by day and the contestants are ready. Just to know that one girl’s life will change and become a role model for young women across the state is exciting. The experience is an enhancement to each participant’s future.”

Free said she is equally excited about Cleveland’s opportunity to show its renowned hospitality and demonstrate why it is called The City With Spirit.

“I encourage our wonderful citizens and businesses to open their arms wide and make the visitors from across the state feel welcome and appreciated as only Cleveland can do,” she said.

In addition to entertaining and socializing with the residents at the Garden Plaza, the young ladies also visited the Salvation Army to deliver diapers to the needy on Monday.

“The Salvation Army distributes diapers for individuals who do not have the means to purchase them for their babies,” Free explained. “To contribute to this need is a wonderful experience for each girl to feel they have extended a helping hand. There is nothing better then being part of helping fulfill a need for someone. I believe sharing with others less fortunate than ourself is a rewarding lifestyle, and to learn this early in life means a more fulfilled life.”

Since the core of the Distinguished Young Women’s program is community service, its “Be Your Best Self” program is a highlight of the event, allowing each distinguished young lady to reach out and encourage young people nationwide to make a commitment to being their best in areas such as academics, physical fitness, morality, character as well as social and civic participation.

Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Ala., Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. It has provided life-changing experiences for more than 700,000 young ladies across the country and more than $93 million in cash scholarships at the local, state and national level.

“Today the programs spans the country with contestant from all 50 sates,” Free said. “Tennessee is a part of much larger program. We are one piece of a completed puzzle. One of the five Elements of the ‘Be Your Best Self Program’ is be involved. Serve your community. But self-expression, interview skills, fitness skills and to further education for the girls is a very important part of the Distinguished Young Women program.”

In addition to cash scholarships, Distinguished Young Women participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from almost 200 colleges and universities. More than $108 million in college scholarship opportunities were provided last year, some of which included full tuition, room, and board to first-class institutions.

Many participants leave the program with scholarships to help them with their college educations, but all of them walk away with friendships, life skills and increased self-confidence. Distinguished Young Women strives to give every young woman the opportunity to further her education and prepare for a successful future.

The program Legends of Music will be Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:00 at the Dixon Center on Lee University Campus. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $25 for each night, or you can purchase admission for both nights for $45.