The Pine Belt had an impressive showing at the Distinguished Young Women of Mississippi competition in Meridian last week, July 22 - 24, by Forrest County’s Christina Danford and Petal’s Sarah High. Over three days, 29 high school seniors competed for over $28,000 in scholarships and the state title.
Both Danford and High wowed the audience and judges with their talents, poise and ability to express themselves. Danford, however, reigned supreme and walked away with the top prize. She also won the Overall Talent award for her violin performance and received preliminary awards in scholastics and fitness.
High wasn’t far behind as the third alternate, and she received preliminary awards in scholastics and self-expression.
“I used to hate speaking in front of people or even standing in front of them,” said High. “This program has caused a big growth in self-confidence. I had to be more comfortable speaking in front of people, and as you can see, I’ve grown a lot.”
Danford, who called herself a “natural introvert,” also expressed that the program pushed her outside her comfort zone and helped her develop more confidence.
“I was actually that person before entering this program that was very unsure about whether I wanted to do it. And, I have to say that being through this week and the people that I have met - it’s absolutely life-changing. It’s going to give you skills that you never knew were inside of you,” Danford explained.
The Distinguished Young Women program evaluates contestants on scholastic achievement, fitness, self-expression, talent and interview skills. It also offers life skills workshops and networking opportunities with state and national sponsors.
Now in its 65th year, State Chairman Sid Wilkinson said, “This program celebrates what is positive with today’s young people and offers them cash scholarship opportunities to further their education.”
High, a senior at Petal High School, hopes to use the scholarship money to accomplish her dream of attending Vanderbilt University to study biochemistry in preparation for medical school. Danford, a senior at Sacred Heart Catholic School, also hopes to become a doctor after attending the U.S. Naval Academy.
Danford will represent Mississippi next year at the National Distinguished Young Women program in Mobile, Alabama.
“I am so incredibly excited to get to represent our beautiful state. I am extremely blessed to get to have this opportunity, and I am so excited for the year ahead,” said Danford.
To the girls thinking about participating in the program, High said, “Definitely go for it! It is truly beneficial in so many ways, and you meet a lot of great people that are really supportive.”
For more information about the Distinguished Young Women program, contact Tara Principe, National Headquarters Marketing and Communications Director, at (251) 438-3621 or tara@distinguishedYW.org. Information is also available at their website: distinguishedyw.org.