By JOYANNA WEBER
Banner Staff Writer
The 2013 Tennessee Distinguished Young Women program activities kicked off Sunday as 20 participants from across the state met their host families and were briefed on what to expect from the scholarship competition.
This orientation also served as a time for parents to meet the host families who will care for their daughters during the week.
Many of those serving as host families have done so in the past. Tennessee DYW co-chair Traci Fant and other members of the state committee told of past participants who are still in contact with their host families and their fellow contestants.
“The great thing about Distinguished Young Women is it’s all about the friendships you build and what you learn about yourself,” Fant told participants Sunday after their arrival at the Fine Arts Center at Bradley Central High School. “This program helps you find out who you are as a person.”
To commemorate the event, each girl was given a tote bag with T-shirts that they will wear at different events throughout the week. Each girl also received a medallion during a ceremony with 2012 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee Lexee Hill.
Fant encouraged the girls to focus on enjoying the experience and not give in to feelings of wanting to give up. Last year, one contestant told Fant she wanted to go home. Yet, by the end of the week she was happy that she had stayed. State committee member Tom Jenkins said he has seen contestants in the past rally around a girl who was feeling homesick, helping her enjoy the experience.
“We have never, to my knowledge, had a girl leave this program in mid-week,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the competition is a “level playing field” because the overall score is determined in five variety categories. These categories are scholastics, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression. Fant encouraged the girls not to think about fellow contestants’ ACT scores, but to focus on doing their best in each of the categories. (These scores are a part of the scholastic portion of the competition.)
Unlike some past years, the competition did not have an activity for the girls to attend with their host families on Sunday night. Instead, the high school juniors were given a rare free night to get to know their host families.
Also different for this year is the contest’s access to the final performance area. The state competition is being held at the BCHS Fine Arts Center.
“This is the first year that we have been in the theater that we are going to be in (for the performance) on Monday,” co-chair Charles Fant said.
Jenkins said this will give the girls a chance to get used to the performance space before the actual competition Friday and Saturday nights.