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Schofield recounts DYW experience

Preparing for a rigorous program like Distinguished Young Women—one that demands the best of the intellect, talent, poise, physical strength, communication skills and grace under pressure of its participants–is no easy feat.

But it was one that Fort Dale Academy senior Hannah Schofield was more than willing to undertake. Her strong effort, exuberant spirit and solid talent all paid off when she earned the title of Butler County’s DYW last summer. And last week she journeyed to Montgomery to join 45 fellow county winners and vie for the state title and valuable scholarship monies.

Schofield, the daughter of Chris and Julie Schofield, says it proved to be “nothing less than the best week of my entire life–one filled with new relationships, countless laughs and memories that will last a lifetime.”

With many past DYWs sharing the numerous positive aspects of the state program with her, Schofield declared herself “thoroughly excited” about what awaited her in the months and weeks leading up to the event.

“I was looking forward to the relationships I had no doubt would blossom from a week with no phones–like explorative teenage conversations,” she explains. “In addition to trying to prepare for those complicated on-stage routines I knew I’d face, I spent some quality time praying for the girls I would come to know and adore, while praying for continuous joy to flow from us during that challenging week.”

And what a challenging week it proved to be. Everyday, there were long, grueling rehearsals, up to 20 practices in a span of 24 hours. And then there was the lack of a certain mobile device that is almost surgically attached to the average teen these days.

“No phones for my generation is a huge deal, but that’s what DYW asks us to do without for the duration of the week,” Schofield explains. “After about 12 hours of nervous pocket pats and chit-chat, my roommates and I decided to lose ourselves in lovely conversation and funny stories. It was beautiful—and refreshing!”

Schofield admits she also missed home, sweet home.

“I missed my family something crazy . . . they are my number one fans, and not having them there to personally encourage me did provoke some homesickness.”

However, knowing what awaited her at the end of each day made up for those long hours of rehearsals and moments of homesickness.

“Coming home to supportive mail and messages every day never failed to remind me of the endless love and respect Butler County had to share with me,” she says. “Daily blessings came from reading encouraging words and wisdom within each letter, card or e-mail. Honestly, everyone’s support meant the world to me. So many happy tears kept sliding down my cheeks after reading how much someone believed in me.”

She also lauds her host family for making a challenging week away from home’s familiar comforts easier and more enjoyable.

“The Miles were the absolute best host family. They generously offered my three roommates and me constant love, laughs—and most importantly, snacks,” Schofield laughs.

In addition to all the rehearsal time, the young women also got the chance to do some sightseeing and dining out.

Schofield, who won the first-ever Wintzell’s Oyster Eating Contest held at the Greenville Wintzell’s last fall for the Butler and Lowndes DYW participants, also took home state DYW honors at the Montgomery restaurant.

“You know I am a competitor . . . I ended up with a record-setting total for DYW and for that Wintzell’s of 50 oysters!”

And she took home much more than Wintzell’s bragging rights from these memorable week.

Schofield was chosen as one of the preliminary talent winners as she reprised her soulful vocal performance of “Wayfaring Stranger” from the county program’s talent presentation.

“Out of 46 amazingly talented ladies, I had the honor of being chosen one of the five preliminary talent award winners with scholarship monies totaling $800,” she says.

But that wasn’t the win of which she is the most proud.

“I was also voted on by all the girls to receive the single Spirit of DYW award which was my ultimate favorite. This award goes to the girl who truly exemplifies ‘distinguished’ by making everyone else’s week a little easier to handle,” Schofield says. “I cried on stage when I received it because it is such a huge honor.” She  also won an additional $1,000 in scholarship monies with the Spirit award.

And there was the sweet satisfaction in achieving a personal goal.

“I have to say the most rewarding part of the week was executing and finishing the dreaded fitness routine on Friday night . . . my body was definitely relieved to be completely finished with it,” she laughs.

And the biggest challenge?

“Having to leave,” Schofield admits. “I grew almost inseparable from all the other Distinguished Young Women who walked through those doors. I witnessed so much joy, so much laughter and so much talent. Those girls morphed into friends I will carry with me my entire life. Many tears were shed by us in the dressing rooms after the final show as we all packed our things and split off.”

It was time to go forth and change the world—one Distinguished Young Woman at a time.

And it’s a goal totally worth pursuing, says Butler County’s reigning DYW.

“DYW is unlike any other program America has to offer. It truly brings out the best in every young woman who decides to participate and searches for qualities that are beneath the surface rather than skin deep,” Schofield says. “As an unorthodox representative who refuses to stop breaking the mold of society’s standards, I would encourage any high school junior girl to partake in local programs. I don’t say this lightly; I say this with complete honesty. Take a chance. Do something out of your comfort zone. You just might end up surprising yourself!”