Tennessee’s Distinguished Young Women traveled to the Garden Plaza on Tuesday night to serve up ice cream and a talent show to the seniors living there, something that Lifestyle Director Kate …
Tennessee’s Distinguished Young Women traveled to the Garden Plaza on Tuesday night to serve up ice cream and a talent show to the seniors living there, something that Lifestyle Director Kate Patterson said energizes the residents each year.
Formerly known as America’s Junior Miss, Distinguished Young Women is a program that offers scholarship opportunities for women in high school. The statewide Distinguished Young Women program has made its home in Cleveland ever since Traci Dunn Fant sat on the board of directors.
“Cleveland is my hometown,” she said. “Since I’ve sat on the board, we’ve come to visit the Garden Plaza each year … I think it’s important that these girls not only gain the experience of what it’s like to serve others, but that the residents are uplifted as well.”
Chelsea Milligan, choreographer for the program, said she was part of the first group to come to the Garden Plaza in 2010. There, she met a couple “that fell in love” at the living facility, and she came back to visit every year that she could.
“This experience meant so much to me,” she said. “And it’s a great volunteer experience for the girls as well.”
Sophia Cardia, of Ooltewah, said she found the program through her high school and decided to join and take advantage of the scholarship opportunities. Though she is suffering from a broken leg, she said she’s eager to show off her talents in dance and in the choreographed fitness routine at the finals this weekend.
“I joined this program for the scholarships and as something to get me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m usually pretty shy, but being here makes that a little easier.”
Madison Dochety, the most recent winner of Distinguished Young Women from Tullahoma, said the ice cream event presents “a calming chaos” for her and the contestants.
“It gives us a break from rehearsals and time to sit and talk with the residents here, which I find pretty calming,” she said. “But with about 20 girls serving ice cream, there’s a little chaos too.”
Seniors watched as about a dozen of the contestants showed off their talents as musicians, dancers and singers. Patterson said her residents “just light up” when the contestants make their way to Garden Plaza each year.
More than anything, resident Nancy Stephens said her neighbors at Garden Plaza “love to be fed.”
A winner for this year’s program will be selected Saturday night. Preliminaries begin Friday at 7 p.m., and finals will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. Both events will take place in the Dixon Center at Lee University.
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