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February 17, 2014

Young women vie for scholastic program title

MILLEDGEVILLE — Nine Distinguished Young Women (DYW) participants are preparing for next week’s showcase in hopes of becoming one of two local representatives in the state program.

“We have been rehearsing and preparing for the show for a month and a half. We rehearse at least two hours every Sunday, and the girls practice on their own as well,” said Sara Stone, chair of the local program. “This year’s theme is ‘Welcome to the Jungle, Hear Us Roar.’ This year we’re all about being strong, confident women; the world is our jungle.”

The high school juniors will showcase their talents and knowledge to the public at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 in the Goldstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Georgia Military College campus. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the door.

“We’re a nonprofit organization, so all of the money we raise through the show and donations is distributed back to the individual girls in the form of scholarships,” Stone said. “With community support, we can continue to offer scholarship opportunities for these young women.”

During the show, a panel of judges will critique each girl — interview and talent for 25 percent each; scholastics for 20 percent; and fitness and self expression for 15 percent each. The Baldwin County DYW and Milledgeville DYW will be awarded a $1,500 cash scholarship each and have the chance to advance to participate at the state level this summer.

“At the state level, the bar gets raised and the girls have to step it up a notch because they’re competing against the best in the state,” Stone said. “Whoever wins Georgia will go on to the national level.”

This year’s DYW participants are Baldwin High School juniors Jolena Yao, Alyshia Martinia Reyes, McKayla Jill Burgamy, Morgan Leigh Crooms, Michelle Batchelor, Morgan Allyse Pendergast, Isabella Collazos and Keleigh Erin McGill; and Georgia Military College Prep School junior Bronte Taylor Amelia Joseph.

“We have a smart group of girls every year, and I cannot be prouder of this group. They’re all top students at their schools, and some of the sweetest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in my life,” Stone said. “This program is all about being your best self; not about who’s the best in their school or who has the best talent. It’s about supporting each other and growing and becoming the best we can be on our own.”

The Milledgeville-Baldwin County program was founded in November 2002 through a partnership with Milledgeville Main Street and Downtown Development Authority. This year’s class of 2015 marks its 12th anniversary celebrating the community’s best and brightest college-bound high school young women.

Since the local program’s inception in 2001, 145 girls have competed in the program and more than $75,000 has been awarded. The program was named the local program of the year for the nation in 2006.

“Since the local program began in 2004, we have awarded over $50,000 in scholarships on the local level,” Stone said. “More than 150 Milledgeville-Baldwin County girls have participated for a share of $85,000 scholarships awarded locally.”

Last year’s representative for Baldwin County DYW was Kathryn Babb and Milledgeville DYW was Julia Hinson. The program has had three local participants win the Georgia title and compete at the national level — Natali Gavanarova in 2010, Laura Brett Harshbarger in 2008 and Blair Harshbarger in 2006.

Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Ala., DYW is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls, providing life-changing experiences for more than 700,000 young women across the country and more than $93 million in cash scholarships at the local, state and national levels. Participants from each of the nine programs in Georgia advance to state competition in Marietta where a panel of five judges select one representative to advance to the annual National Finals in Alabama.

For more information about the DYW program, or to donate to the local program, call Stone at 478-456-8738, or visit www.ajm.org.

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