Hannah Dillard shows off her dance moves as she rehearses the talent portion of the Distinguished Young Women Program. (Advocate Staff/Angie Long)

Archived Story

Seven vie for county’s DYW title

Published 5:52pm Friday, August 19, 2011

It’s a new era for a scholarship program founded more than 50 years ago in Mobile.

Junior Miss is now known as “Distinguished Young Women.” Butler County’s first representative under the new name will receive her title on stage at the Ritz Theater tonight. The program begins at 7 p.m.

Vying for the coveted medallion and their share of $5,000 in scholarship monies are Shelley Brannon, Hannah Dillard, Taylor Autrey and Barrett Leverette from Fort Dale Academy; Ashley Newton and Whitney Adams from Greenville High School, and Tanner King from Sparta Academy.

Butler County DYW director, Starla Jones, explained the reasons for the name change.

“Our national program was having some difficulty finding sponsorships,” Jones said.

“A company was hired to do research and study data, and they determined the title ‘Junior Miss’ was identified in many parts of the country with regular beauty pageants, while this program is much more than that.’

After two years, the new name was revealed last summer.

“It was felt the word ‘distinguished’ truly described the young women who participate in the program because they are set apart and respected for their accomplishments,” Jones said.

The seven high school seniors, all residents of Butler County, will compete in five categories: scholastics—20 percent; interview—25 percent; talent—25 percent; fitness—15 percent and self-expression—15 percent.

“We are really looking for the talented, well-rounded young woman who is strong in academics, physically fit, who exhibits grace under pressure and expresses herself well. It is certainly more than a beauty pageant,” Jones said.

Jones herself is a former Dale County Junior Miss, and says being part of the program impacted her life “in a tremendous way.”

“I will never forget the sense of accomplishment I had after completing this program,” Jones said. “It strengthened my skills and confidence as I prepared to finish my senior year and go on to college. I’ve always enjoyed being on stage and this gave me a chance to perform in a unique way. And of course, the scholarship monies helped me continue my education.”

Jones says she hopes many friends and classmates will join the family members of the participants Saturday night to cheer on their favorites.

“I am so proud of these girls and the work they’ve done to prepare for the program.  I also want to give special thanks to all those who have supported this program by donating to the scholarship fund, giving of their time and in many other ways to make this program.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and tickets will be available at the door at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children.

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