Each of the 24 teenagers had already won a local competition to make it to the state level.
Cleveland has been the site of the state level of competition since 2009.
“It has been wonderful ever since,” co-chair Traci Fant said. “Everyone is so supportive.”
Sunday’s welcoming at Cleveland Middle School was dedicated to giving the girls instructions and guidelines on what to expect throughout the week.
Co-chair Nikki Wilks and Fant reminded the girls what the Distinguished Young Woman scholarship program is all about and also provided an outline of the week’s activities.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland gave a brief address welcoming the contestants to “The City With Spirit.”
“We are so glad you are here,” Rowland said. “We hope you learn a lot about our community from your interaction with your host families.”
Rowland thanked the local residents who had volunteered to be host families for the week. The mayor also gave an overview of the multiple national brands that are manufactured in Cleveland.
Sunday provided the girls a chance to meet the other scholarship hopefuls and their host families.
DYW of Cumberland Valley Macy Marin said she was looking forward to “really getting to know the girls and getting to experience a week with them and doing fun stuff in the community.”
DYW of Middle Valley Kathleen (Michaela) Guice said she was also looking forward to the group activities.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody’s talent,” Guice said.
DYW of Tullahoma Ashley Stevens agreed. She said performing in the talent portion was what she was looking forward to most.
Many of the girls became familiar with the scholarship program through a teacher or someone at their school.
“There was a girl that I really looked up to in my school that won for Signal Mountain, so I decided I would do it as well,” DYW of Signal Mountain Chloe Lyle said. “I’m really excited to get to know the other girls and really get to know myself as well.”
Throughout the program contestants are encouraged to “Be Your Best Self,” both on and off the competition stage.
Wilks said DYW really becomes like a family with past winners coming back to help out year after year.
While many of the girls are looking forward to the talent portion of the competition, some are nervous about the interview portion. The scholarship hopefuls will spend countless hours in the next week practicing a fitness routine and preparing for the two-night competition which will be held Friday and Saturday evenings in the Dixon Center on the Lee University campus.
Each girl also brought blankets they had made to donate to the resident of Garden Plaza Retirement Village.
Once Sunday’s afternoon welcoming closed, DYW contestants were taken to the homes of their host families. The day ended with a picnic and scavenger hunt held at Red Clay State Park. The event was coordinated through the host families.