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Dunklin places in the Top 8 at Junior Miss

Meetings, tours, parties, dinners, costume fittings – and grueling rehearsal after rehearsal. Butler County’s Junior Miss Elizabeth Dunklin’s whirlwind experience at the State Junior Miss program January 9 – 18 proved unforgettable.

The Fort Dale Academy senior, the daughter of Jim and Tyler Dunklin of Greenville, was one of two FDA students representing the school at the event (Conecuh County’s Junior Miss, Mary Ryn Nielsen of Evergreen, was the other).

Dunklin came away a Top Eight Finalist at state, placing in the preliminaries in both talent and the “Be Your Best Self” Essay competitions.

It was Dunklin’s performance of the difficult “Toccata” by Aram Kachaturian that helped earn her that spot among the best of the best.

“I’ve studied piano for ten years under Mrs. Rhonda Bentley and she told me to consider ‘Tocatta’ for the county program,” Dunklin explained.

“At first, I was skeptical of the piece. At home, my brother Hill said it sounded like scary movie music because I wasn’t playing it at proper tempo (which was a lot faster). But after many hours of practice and much-needed instruction from Mrs. Rhonda, I became comfortable and excited about playing the piece.”

There were many challenges to take on during Junior Miss Week in Montgomery.

Learning and perfecting three routines in rehearsals for as much as eight hours a day was no walk in the park.

“But, it was also one of the most fun parts of the week because during those rehearsals I was able to get to know all the girls and make 52 new friends,” Dunklin said.

“This summer, we plan to meet again to support 2009 Alabama’s Junior Miss Kathryn Tully in Mobile at the nationals.”

During their time in Montgomery at AJM, the girls live with host families. While they can send letters and cards of encouragement to the candidates, family members and friends could not see or speak to Dunklin and her fellow contestants.

“”Before leaving for Junior Miss, I wasn’t sure if I could handle that. Then I realized the situation was very much like college, and I learned to make my own decisions and to keep my room and living area clean so my belongings wouldn’t get lost or mixed up,” Dunklin said.

She also learned to love her host family, the Bryans, and her roommate, Taylor Dyar from Blount County.

“The Bryans were all so considerate and made everything so easy and comfortable for me. And Taylor and I shared a room and bathroom for a week, but I wish it had been longer.

She was so cute, had such a sweet personality and made everything so much fun,” Dunklin said.

“I would claim my host family and roommate as a second family and sister any day.”

In fact, the best part of the AJM experience, she says, was developing relationships with the 52 girls from across the state and the AJM staff members.

“The staff members were our room mothers and every single one of them were caring, upbeat, and helpful in so many ways. I got to know all the Junior Misses during rehearsals, meals, breaks, rides on the bus, luncheons and the tour of the zoo,” Dunklin said.

“They are all amazing girls, and I am glad to have made friendships with them that I know will last a long time. And I also enjoyed having the chance to represent Butler County at AJM.”

Dunklin’s twin sister, Caroline, proved to be one of her most faithful supporters during the process, she says.

“Caroline helped me practice routines, listened to my talent, and gave me ideas to help in the interview. She and my family were my biggest cheerleaders and fans, and I couldn’t have made it through the week without their daily letter, love and encouragement,” Dunklin explained.

Dunklin’s AJM experience went above and beyond all expectations.

“I really would absolutely recommend this program to every girl interested. You get to meet precious girls from all Alabama, make new contacts, go through an interview process and have the opportunity to earn scholarship money. These aspects and many more combined during Junior Miss, making it the most memorable and unbelievable week of my life!” she enthused.

Since her program experience, the Top Eight finalist has gotten back into the swing of things at FDA. Among her achievements and activities, Dunklin, who is top ranked in her senior class, is an all-star cheerleader and tennis champion at the school, a member of the Drama Club, Key Club, Scholars’ Bowl, class officer, Beta Club officer, Mu Alpha Theta Math honorary member and winner of a number of academic awards. Dunklin is also active in the community and her church, First Presbyterian, as a volunteer and serves as a Camellia Girl for the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce.

While she is still “looking into a few career options, Dunklin is definitely destined to continue her education on the Plains at Auburn University.

And she’ll already have friends there.

“Several of her fellow Junior Miss contestants are going to Auburn and they are already making plans,” her mom Tyler said with a grin.