DYW impacts Thompsons
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 18, 2013 | 1817 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print

THE THOMPSON FAMILY is one of several throughout the Cleveland area who have been hosting contestants of the Distinguished Young Women state program in their homes. Here, the family of six poses for a photo with their puppy, a Maltese-poodle mix, on their front porch. At back are parents Robert and Ramona Thompson. In the middle row, from left, are Emma, Gabrielle and Elsa. Adelaide, the youngest of the sisters, stands at front. The family currently has three DYW representatives staying with them. Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
THE THOMPSON FAMILY is one of several throughout the Cleveland area who have been hosting contestants of the Distinguished Young Women state program in their homes. Here, the family of six poses for a photo with their puppy, a Maltese-poodle mix, on their front porch. At back are parents Robert and Ramona Thompson. In the middle row, from left, are Emma, Gabrielle and Elsa. Adelaide, the youngest of the sisters, stands at front. The family currently has three DYW representatives staying with them. Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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With the Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee competition taking place in Cleveland this week, 18 high school girls — most from outside the area — have been experiencing “The City With Spirit.”

Since their arrival Sunday, their daily schedules have been packed with rehearsals and other commitments. At the end of each day, they have returned to the homes of local host families who have been providing them places to stay for preparations for the next day.

One such family is the Thompsons. Father Robert, mother Ramona, 11-year-old Gabrielle, 9-year-old twins Elsa and Emma and 7-year-old Adelaide have all said they look foward to “DYW week” almost as much as the girls who spend the night with them do.

“We’re honored to be a host family,” Robert said. “It’s a great program.” 

The Thompsons are in their fifth year of hosting Distinguished Young Women contestants, and Ramona serves on the state competition’s board. When the then-director approached her with the opportunity to become a host family, she “started out not knowing a thing about it.” Years later, she was glad to have said yes.

This week, the family is hosting Courtney Miller of Cumberland Valley, McKenzie Roberts of Sevier County and Lainey Smith of Collierville.

While she said she knew hosting Distinguished Young Women was helpful to them taking part in the state program, Ramona said the family has hosted for multiple years so her four daughters could “have a positive role model for the week.” 

“The influence these girls have on my girls is invaluable,” Ramona said. “We’ve forged friendships longer than just one week.” 

She said the family continues to exchange Christmas cards, text messages and other communication on websites like

Facebook with past guests. Ramona added that she and her husband have even hired former DYW contestants as babysitters for their daughters because of their relationships.

Oldest daughter Gabrielle said she realized the family’s annual DYW houseguests have taught her about getting along with her siblings.

“I’ve learned how to be a good big sister to my sisters,” Gabrielle said. “They teach leadership in the program.” 

Emma explained how they all enjoyed spending time with their house guests for the week, especially while playing games like “seeing who could Hula-Hoop the absolute longest.” 

Elsa nodded her head in agreement.

Their typical day this week has started early, with the Thompson girls helping prepare breakfast for their guests before they report to the Dixon Center at Lee University for rehearsal at 8:15 most mornings.

Robert is an attorney with the Logan-Thompson law firm, and Ramona is a recovery room nurse at SkyRidge Medical Center. Ramona said they do stay really busy, but they make time to be a DYW host family.

Youngest sister Adelaide wanted to make sure everyone knew what made the Distinguished Young Women staying with her family so special.

“They’re pretty, and they’re smart, and they’re talented,” she said, counting off each of those points on her fingers.

Three out of four of the girls said they would like to be part of the program someday because they got to know some who were taking part in it.

“I don’t know yet,” Adelaide said with a grin.

The family will join others throughout the community to watch the preliminary and final nights of the program Friday and Saturday at 7 at the Dixon Center.