“Which came first,” read the query on the slip of paper, “the chicken or the egg?”
The judges and ladies shared a laugh before serious contemplation took over the group.
“I think the chicken,” responded judge Donna French. “Because God created all things and then he showed them how to reproduce.”
Laughter and cheers greeted the response, hailing another round of “Meet the Judges” as a success. The annual 15-minute Q&A has become a staple in the Distinguished Young Women scholarship program. It allows the young ladies to see who they will be interviewed, and ultimately judged by, during the competition Friday and Saturday.
Questions ranged from the silly to the serious.
Judge Jackie Walton was momentarily stumped by the one presented to her. It read, “What is the greatest mistake our generation is making?”
She cracked a joke about the heaviness of the question. Walton then announced she had two answers.
“The first one I definitely think are cellphones. I think we use them too much, myself included,” she said. “It really bothers me when I am sitting in the restaurant and I am watching young people — instead of talking to each other they are on their cellphones.”
Continued Walton, “The second one is disrespect — and I think it is our generation’s fault honestly that there is a lack of [respect]. And I am sure you are all very respectful, but your generation [has a problem] with respecting not only your elders, but your peers.”
Tennessee’s DYW of 2013 Katie Ward led the ladies in a cheer of thanks before the judges made their way out of Lee University’s Dixon Center.
The judges themselves took a minute after the Q&A to express their thoughts on the annual scholarship program.
Judge Ken Maxwell whose sister, wife and daughter were all in the program said DYW supports timeless qualities in young women.
“It is sustainable, no matter what happens in the world around you,” he said. “Having seen what it did for my wife and sister and then my own daughter, it is a very rewarding thing to be a part of.”
His wife and fellow judge, Renee, said the program recognizes talent, leadership and scholastics.
“It takes the best gifts these bright young women have and really helps them move those gifts to another level. We teach girls that who they are is enough,” she said. “[DYW] takes something maybe you are not as strong in and really helps you gain a lot of confidence, whether it is interview or physical fitness or performing.”
French, who has been involved with the program for 40 years, described the program as unique.
“This is the one and only program that really shows and lets a girl be her best self,” she said. “It brings out every good characteristic a girl can have and nothing bad. It is fabulous.”
Judge Debby Howard said DYW is an opportunity to showcase positive stories about young ladies.
“The [news] has a tendency to recognize only the bad things teenagers do,” she said. “These girls deserve to be recognized for not only what they do in the program, but what they do in their community.”
Walton, who has been involved with the program for over 30 years, stays for the wall flowers.
“I was a wall flower in high school. I never would have done this program,” she said. “[Some girls] may not be the best in fitness, but the growth they get from the beginning til the end in every single area is what I like about the program.”
The judges are not allowed to have contact with the girls outside of the “Meet the Judges” Q&A, and judging.