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Local Organization Promotes & Rewards Scholarships

Photographer / Jubilee Edgell

The auditorium was packed with attendees from all over the nation. When the eight finalists in the 2018 Nationals Distinguished Young Women (DYW) Program walked onto the stage, the emcee reminded the audience that, for this public speaking exhibition, these high school seniors would be judged on speaking ability, clarity in response and grace under pressure. The question posed to the Indiana representative was, “In America, should health care be considered a privilege or a right?” Confidently, she responded, “Land of the free, home of the brave and the healthy. I believe health insurance should be a right. Everyone has the right to a safe and healthy life, no matter your preexisting situation. Those with the most chronic illnesses to the simplest cold have the right to be cared for in a respectful way.”

On June 30, 2018, the Kokomo native won the national DYW competition, earning a $30,000 scholarship.

For 61 years, the DYW program has helped public, private and home-educated high school seniors gain confidence and improve themselves, all at no cost to the participants. At the grassroots, DYW begins in late summer or fall and goes county by county, leading up to the state competition in February and Nationals in June.

In Fulton County, DYW was nonexistent for 30 years until a native DYW alumna, Michaela Slisher decided to revive it with Lisa Becker.

“This will be the first year that we’ve actually gotten it off the ground since 1989,” says Slisher, who is the local chairman. “It’s been a learning experience for all of us.”

What sets DYW apart from similar programs is that it is a scholarship program, not a beauty pageant.

“We are not about the external beauty as much as we are about the internal,” Slisher says. “We’re strictly about a well-rounded individual.”

Specifically, DYW focuses on five categories: scholastics, interview skills, talent, fitness and self-expression.

“They’re competing against themselves, not against the other girls,” Slisher says. At the showcase, the participants will be evaluated on a scale of 0-10 in all areas by a panel of non-local judges who are chosen by the DYW state chairman.

For the DYW of Fulton County team, it’s been a massive undertaking. Not only have they been preparing the girls for the local showcase on November 23, but they have also been looking for area businesses and organizations that would be willing to sponsor the county-level scholarships. This year, Slisher and her team want to award $3,500 overall to the participants, with a $1,000 scholarship to the local winner.

These funds are available for any kind of further education, including 2-year programs, technology and trade schools.

“We’re all about continuing education. So, we do not have strings attached,” Slisher says. “We want to be sure that we are catching those career paths or continuing education institutions that wouldn’t be normally covered in a scholarship.”

Juniors in high school who are interested in competing next year or anyone curious about the program are encouraged to attend the local showcase at Caston High School on November 23 at 6 PM. For more information, visit DYW of Fulton County online at fulton.in.distinguishedyw.org. Businesses who would like to sponsor the program can reach Michaela Slisher at  slisher@rtcol.com.

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