A community welcome to 26 adopted daughters

Posted 7/15/17

To the 26 remarkable contestants representing hometowns across the state in the 2018 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee scholarship program, welcome to our Cleveland and Bradley County …

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A community welcome to 26 adopted daughters


To the 26 remarkable contestants representing hometowns across the state in the 2018 Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee scholarship program, welcome to our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown!

Later today on the Cleveland State Community College campus, these bubbly teens will be given an open-armed greeting by those who best understand the concept of community: Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, CSCC President Dr. Bill Seymour, a group of inspiring host families and members of the DYW Tennessee State Board of Directors.

To be held in the beautiful George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center from 2 to 4 p.m., this welcoming ceremony will celebrate the ninth consecutive year that our community has hosted the state competition.

Those who are familiar with the scholarship program, and who follow its path — as well as its favorable impact wherever it goes — recognize the widely respected endeavor over the years has traveled to many Tennessee cities. In past years, the program once found itself in the state’s larger metro areas in order to bring its zest and the beautiful smiles of its contestants to different corners of Tennessee.

However, some of that travel slowed nine years ago when Distinguished Young Women discovered Cleveland, and likewise, when Cleveland embraced Distinguished Young Women.

Since its arrival, the program has brought a natural beauty to our community. We use words like “beauty” to describe the DYW program, because we do so with purpose.

The DYW competition — formerly, and long ago, known as the Junior Miss — serves as a life-changing and experiential event in the lives of young women.

As we have written in editorials of years past, it is about beauty. But this beauty comes from deep within ... the heart, the soul, the very fabric of what makes these young ladies the apples of their parents’ eyes.

It is about graciousness. Some believe this to be a dying trait in today’s society where words like “rat race” and “deadline” and “hurry” dominate the day. But we know better ... because we know programs like Distinguished Young Women remind us of the value in treating others as we wish to be treated.

It is about community service. The heart of the Distinguished Young Women contestant is probably the biggest of all because its path in life is one that is directed to the needs, to the comfort and to the well-being of others.

It is about talent. These youngsters of the Distinguished Young Women program are among the finest in self-expression. They sing. They dance. They make the music of generational love. They recite poetry. They understand that life is a gift and the greatest gift that can be given is the expression of life.

It is about education. Contestants don’t enter this program for glory or prestige. They do it for the scholarships and for personal growth. To educate the mind is to prepare the heart for the challenges of another day.

It is about ambassadorship. Everywhere a Distinguished Young Women contestant travels, she represents her family, her school, her church, her hometown and all who have offered a hand in influencing her direction.

At this afternoon’s welcoming, the 2018 hopefuls also will hear from one of their own. Halla Maynard, the 2017 Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee who won the state program last year and who recently returned from the national competition in Mobile, Ala. — will be on hand to offer her words of encouragement to a group of “sisters” who hope to follow in her footsteps.

Undoubtedly, Halla will follow this week’s DYW events with the excitement of one who has been there before, and who is willing to give her support, and her time, for the benefit of others. This year, Halla will serve as the role model and we believe she will be an excellent one.

Who are these special guests for the coming week? Let us introduce them by name and by their home communities.

Vying to become the 2018 Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee are: Ella Tiller, Maryville; Caitlin Munn, Jasper; Karis Mitchell, Athens; Chanteria Milner, Memphis; Christen Coyle, Germantown; Charlotte Smith, Signal Mountain; Virginia Eskew, Morristown; Macey Daniel, Soddy Daisy; Mia Isabel Rodriguez, Gallatin; Jessica McChesney, Tullahoma; Jo-Hannah Valentin, Chattanooga; Jasmine Ngo, Cleveland; Desiree Phillips, Collierville; Jodee George, Tullahoma; Reba John, Chattanooga; Kolbey Ferguson, Chattanooga; Lyrikal Jenkins, Memphis; Ashley Stewart, Belvidere; Peyton King, Nolensville; Alexis Brown, Chattanooga; Kyra Brady, Dayton; Leah Humble, Sevierville; Zhariah Walker, Arlington; Rose Albert, Chattanooga; Grace Johnson, Dandridge; and Melody Nolte, Saint Joseph.

Each young woman has advanced to the state competition by virtue of winning a preliminary DYW contest at the community level. For instance, the representative who will wear No. 4 throughout the week is Jasmine Ngo, winner of the most recent DYW of Cleveland program.

We offer our best wishes to Jasmine, just as we do to her 25 new friends, in the coming days.

It will be a fatiguing week, but a rewarding one.

When our beloved visitors aren’t rehearsing at Arnold Memorial Elementary School, and later in Dixon Center on the Lee University campus, they’ll be seen throughout the community: Attending life skills workshops at CSCC, visiting and performing at Garden Plaza Retirement Community, touring the Lee University campus, and others. During some needed down time, they’ll also enjoy a pool party at the home of a host family and an ice cream social at Baskin Robbins, as well as luncheons each day.

For those planning to attend, the preliminary program will begin Friday at 7 p.m. at Dixon Center, and the finals will get started Saturday at 7 p.m. at the same location.

It is always a special week in our hometown when the Distinguished Young Women contestants arrive.

To each, we offer our warmest embrace.

To their families and loved ones, we hope that you enjoy your stay and that you feel welcome to return at any time to enjoy the big-city amenities of our small-town setting.

And to all, welcome to “The City With Spirit!”


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